Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sad Stereotypes

Bizarro is brought to you today by Real Live Indians.

Me: "My name is Dan Piraro and I suffer from depression."
All: "Hello, Dan."
Group member: "You're not supposed to use your last name, this is Depression Anonymous."
Me: "You're not supposed to use quotation marks in a script format, either, so sue me."

Yes, I'm a long time taker of "crazy pills," thus called because they keep me from being crazy. As such, I know full well that anti-depressants do not make a person feel the way Melancholy Wolf appears to feel in this cartoon. In truth, they just make you feel normal. Normally happy, sad, or somewhere in between, depending on the circumstance.

I was quite the melancholy wolf for many years, with unpredictable bouts of utter hopelessness and despair, as well as unbridled anger, that would last from a few days to a few weeks. I went to shrinks, I read books, I exercised, I changed my diet, I changed my life – nothing worked. It was inexplicable.

Until one of my therapists bothered to "explic" it to me and asked me to try anti-depressants. I was very hesitant, being one of those tough guys who doesn't want a chemical solution to my problems. But I was so desperate I finally agreed and within a couple of weeks, I felt normal for the first time in my adult life. Melancholy Wolf's exuberance is representative of how I felt when the cloud first lifted. I just wish I hadn't waited until my late thirties to take the plunge.

Speaking of the Injuns in the cartoon above, I was in Indianapolis recently with some Native American comic artist colleagues and learned a lot about what sort of pop culture stereotypes bother them. I suspect this cartoon might fit into a few of those categories because I didn't bother to research it.

Not all American Indians wore braids, bone breastplates, feathers in their hair, fringe on their shirts and lived in teepees, yet that is commonly how they are depicted. Sorry, guys, didn't have time to look it up, deadlines loomed. I just went straight for the easy cliche, I hope I didn't get it completely wrong.

On a slightly different note, I'm a fan of Native American names. Not all of them are bucolic monikers about nature – like Soaring Eagle and Whispering Beaver – some are more expository. My favorite name, which was in a book of photos of Native Americans from around the turn of the 19th century, is Stabs By Mistake.

Following this method of naming, when CHNW and I were first married, I dubbed her grandmother, Stares At New Guy Like She Hates Him.


Jeremy said...

I wondered why you chose a manufactured man-made drug instead of a more naturally derived substance like marijuana or hallucinogenic mushrooms. Natives were known to use those substances.

derekamalo said...

jeremy ..mnever a good idea to mix hallucinegenic mushrooms with people who get easily depressed..

flashbak a trip of mine to netherlands in 2004..

i lost piece of luggage and was pissed the check in guy lied about our rooms and there was no safe

all this worked on me as being heavily ocd

as a first time legal shroomer they say do not take things with negagtive stuff on your mind ..

it was not a good trip that is therefore i never touched them again

but i did however live off hash all ten days i was there that was great time ..

Anonymous said...

Jeremy - what are you a commie, pinko, hippie??? Don't you know you should ONLY trust the proud product offered by our state sponsored pharmaceutical industry!!!! Assuming that they only come from a US pharmacy not from an undocumented, unclean, obvious fake pushing Canadian Rx (how could they be real at those prices?)

What do the locals know when they were not sending 10% to King George's church of choice? Duhh

Eben said...

If I had an American Indian name, it would be "Dances With Two Left Feet".

Anonymous said...

Cliched, overused themes - here Piraro comes!

Jeremy said...

Yes, Waldo, I am a commie pink hippy.

Anonymous said...

Whenever you get the blues, try singing "I'm Henry the 8th, I am"
over and over,as loud as you wish, and before you know it, your demons have packed up and hit the road.
Or just read Bizarro, that's good too...

Anonymous said...

So is my wife, Jeremy, so is my wife... thus the sarcasm

Karl said...

Since I'm sensing this is a time to be hilariously serious, it's my personal feeling that drugs don't help get to the heart of the problem, whether psychological or physical. There is always an underlying cause. People who take diebetic medication (my wife for example)might have to because they have neglected to follow a healthy diet for years and are now suffering the consequences. That isn't to say she shouldn't take meds, but it might have been prevented.

With psychological problems it's trickier, because the old noggin has a mind of it's own, you could say. When anyone tries to avoid pain or prevent depression, they are going against the body's natural reaction to outside influence or inner concerns and fears. I never take any medication, but that doesn't mean I don't have times when I experience depression, because like most average people, I do. I cope with it by allowing it to take it's natural course. I don't resist or fight it, because you can't win. It does it's thing by making me feel horrible for a little while, but then after it sees it's job is done, it leaves on its own and I'm left feeling happier and somewhat renewed (most definitely relieved).

Unknown said...

Jeremy...love your little icon thingie. very awesome.

ktm: as someone who's tried the chemical way and the non-chemical way of getting over depression, i somewhat agree with you. letting it "take its course" is sometimes okay, but what if the course lasts several months, or comes in the middle of exam week your senior year of college? i don't think meds should be used as a crutch, but sometimes people need a little help.

when i was in high school i took meds but was still depressed. when i got to college, i stopped the meds but was less depressed. reason? my life sucked less when i was in college, and more when i was in high school. this might be some of the underlying reason.

i can't speak to the usefulness of shrooms, since i haven't tried any except for the ones found in food, which taste good but haven't helped me to feel better.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Indian name comes from a "Native Americans" calendar that featured a portrait of a venerable lady born into the Blackfoot tribe in 1893. Her name was Rosie Big Beaver.

Amyranth said...

True Story:

My mom went to school with a native girl named Mary Christmas. She told me this as a child and I never believed her.

10 or so years later, I'm in high school and my friends and I are discussing bad baby names. We had stumbled on a real gem earlier in the day, and while we were all laughing ourselves stupid, I told the story of Mary Christmas.

A friend of mine, Sabrina, perked up at the other end of the table, and said "Mary Christmas? That's my mom! Mary Ellen Christmas!".

Indeed, my mother had gone to school with one Mary Ellen Christmas, who would go on to have a daughter that I would later joke about her mother with.

This world is getting too small.

Unknown said...

Oof, Dan, as a fellow sufferer of depression, I know it can be a real bitch. Hopefully your treatment is helping keep the gloom at bay.

And trust me, there's no shame in needing (legitimate) medication to help you with your problem.

doug nicodemus said...

if i had a native name (though i am native of course..we all are) it would be ...takes drugs with both hands...have a great day dan...damn i missed you in indie

P.L. Frederick said...

I've enjoyed your cartoons for years, whenever they came my way. Now I'm fortunate enough to have this superduper-updated blog to come to! You are a wisecracker.

I applaud your healing, stabilizing efforts and your talking about brain disorders out in the open! Visibility helps reduce misconception. Have you heard of an organization in the U.S. called NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness? Among other stuff, in many regions they offer a free (and intense) 12-week course called Family-to-Family for family members of someone with a mental disorder. I found it to be a life-changing, healing experience. Anyone interested, check them out at nami.org. (For that course, click Find Support > Education & Training.)

P.L. Frederick (Small & Big)

P.L. Frederick said...

And Amyranth, that Mary Christmas story is hilarious!

P.L. Frederick (Small & Big)

Anonymous said...

Prozac jokes! Awesome! Dial up the time machine for 1992!

Piraro said...

If anyone is still paying attention to this thread, I want to answer a few issues brought up here:

Pot makes me depressed, so it's no good for me.

Mushrooms are great but way too great to take on a daily basis. I'd never get anything done and don't want to be high all the time.

Depression has many causes, mine is chemical. For whatever reason, my brain doesn't produce enough serotonin. No amount of therapy will solve it. Letting it run its course is actually a bad thing from what I've been told and read. The more a person with this condition gets depressed, the greater and more permanent the chemical imbalance becomes – like a muscle getting stronger with exercise. Eventually you dive so deep that many commit suicide. Long before that happens, you become so miserable on an ongoing basis that you can't function properly and nobody wants to be around you. You become an asshole/hermit.

With the drug, however, I'm totally normal and fine and forget that I've got an imbalance. It's a lifesaver with virtually no bad side effects.

Jeremy said...


I in no way advocate suicide, and I honestly wish the best for you, but something you said bothers me a bit.

You say you are an atheistic evolutionist (Also known an Naturalistic Evolution). If what you say is correct about your disorder, should you not kill yourself in the name of natural selection to make sure you do not pass this disposition onto your offspring?

This was always something that puzzled the heck out of me as a kid when I was told about Darwin's theories. Its also something that Romulans from Star Trek advocate. When a Romulan met Geordie and asked him about his blindness he was puzzled that his parents didn't kill him as an infant when they discovered he was blind.

If you really believe in millions of years or death and (beneficial) mutations, what makes you not follow through with what you understand as the natural outcome of this condition?

Again, I don't want you to commit suicide, this is just a practice in logic. Where does your value of life come from if there is no God and no moral foundation?

Anonymous said...

Nowax Said: Long time reader. First time commenter (never wanted to leave email address).

First let me respond to Jeremy's comment asking why don't people who believe in Darwinism commit suicide if they have some sort of physical "defect"? 1) Are you kidding? 2) No, because even people who believe in Darwin's theory of evolution value life. Why do you believe that believing in evolution precludes one from valuing human life? Never understood religious people who think that not believing in a god somehow means you don't value life. 3) No, because If all humans committed suicide if they had a "defect", there wouldn't be many people left, since I'd like to meet anyone without a "defect". 4) No, I can't imagine this world without the cartoons of Dan Piraro making it a bearable place.


Jeremy said...


I asked a specific question, where does your value of life come from? You didn't answer my question, and no I am not kidding.

If it were not for millions of years of death, you would not have Humans if the theory of evolution is true. You have to have billions of deaths over and over to create a more advanced being.

Instead of saying its a ridiculous question, just answer it or you risk looking ridiculous yourself. Or is it that you can't answer that question? There is no answer, is there? You have to ultimately borrow morals from places like The Bible and other ancient texts?

I am not advocating suicide specifically, but simply playing out the end result that his condition causes.

Jeremy said...

Exactly as I suspected. 2 days later, no one can answer this question. He can only call the question ridiculous and turn his nose up at me.

Dave Stratton said...

Alternate caption:

"First smallpox, now white man expose us to musical theatre."

I know, you didn't ask, but Dead Death got me going.

Anonymous said...

jeremy - that, or he forgot about this conversation and moved on with his life.

FIDO said...

Rusty is a genius, LOL.

Anonymous said...

To Jeremy -- Yes, I moved on with my life and just now am checking for a response.

Ok, why do I value life. Before I answer, I could ask you: why don't you as a follower of God, distain all life, because, being a flawed lower life form [God being perfect], why don't you just commit suicide so that you can spend eternity with God? Oh that's right: loophole: you can't commit suicide. But I won't ask you because it's a stupid question.

But you want an answer. 1) Because I believe that all life -- not just humans -- has intrinsic value. And I don't believe that I need to have any justification to believe that. Because you see, I have a brain, and my brain uses Reason. And reason tells me that if I don't value other humans, chances are, they won't value me. It's in my best interest then, to value other humans.

And as crazy as all that sounds -- I value my life above all others! So I don't want to kill myself.

But if I do ever kill myself, I'll remember your kind Christian words that basically say that unless I believe in God I am valueless. I'll put that in my farewell letter to my family as my reason for killing myself.

Anonymous said...

Man, I wish my eldest son would take his antidepressants more reliably. After years of therapy that helped somewhat, after suicide threats and murder threats, after me calling the cops from my cellphone because he ripped the kitchen phone off the wall when I tried to use it, he tried them and became once again the wonderful person he was before depression took him. When he forgets, or gets annoyed at how necessary they are and decides not to take them, he is no fun to be around.

I read a story about a woman who had been taking antidepressants for years. Her doctor wondered if she still needed to be taking them, and asked her if she ever noticed any difference in how she felt if she didn't take them. She said she didn't notice any difference at all, but her husband became a real jerk.

Jeremy said...


Once again you dodge or ignore most of my questions and pretend that I am suggesting you kill yourself. You are just proving to me how irrational the Atheist mind is.

I don't kill myself because I have a purpose and I am loved by God. Besides, the Bible never teaches that if I kill myself or die some other way that I will zip straight up to heaven on golden wings, that is something Catholics added. I will have to wait until Jesus' return just like everyone else, so what would be the point of killing myself just to keep waiting? Its like speeding up to a red light; pointless.

You should study more, and learn about something before you decide you don't like it or oppose it.

Unknown said...

Jeremy - You are embodying another sad stereotype: the intolerant, ignorant, insensitive Christian. I respect your personal faith in God, in return you must respect others' lack of faith in God. Atheists may not draw inspiration from the same source as you do, but that does not mean that we see take life for granted. I don't believe in a creator, but I still marvel at the beauty of life. Evolution is just as beautiful to me as it seems God is to you.

Furthermore, arguing that Dan has no right to live unless he can provide a good reason why he does is as bad as suggesting that he kill himself, no matter how many disclaimers you include. It's like calling someone, a "worthless n-word, no offense meant of course." Ridiculous.

Jeremy said...


You obviously are misreading me. I am not judging anyone. I have never said or insinuated that Dan should die. Quite the opposite!

I am simply curious. I asked a question. I am not suggesting that Atheists do not value life. I am simply asking Atheists to help me understand their worldview.

Now if I might turn the tables, you appear to be taking the stereotypical Atheist stance and assuming anyone that believes in a God or higher power is stupid and judging you. I don't! Not at all.

But nice try! It almost worked, trying to attack me instead of answering the DAMN QUESTION!!

You Atheist pussies can't even answer a simple fucking question.

(Was that judgmental enough for you, Rachel? You ignorant douchebag?)

Anonymous said...


This is no god, get over it.

I value life because I value life, that is just who I've evolved to be.

There is no magic pixie land in the sky that I'm going to when I die. Neither are you, get over it.

I may have physical faults that I will pass on genetically to my children but I also have a lot of good traits that I believe are more important that I do want to pass on: I don't believe in fairies, I'm intelligent enough to make my own decisions about what is right and wrong, and I don't blindly follow some archaic herd mentality.

Anonymous said...

The big bang happened out of nothing.

Barbara said...

Thank you Dan, for telling, that you take this pills too, like i do and so many others. But is still a kind of tabu. I sayd many years no to it, because i think, it's not good to eat chemistry, and because in the back of my head i was thinking, this is for lunatics.