My Disagreement with McEntyre

On page 13 of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies McEntyre says that it is an abuse of language to use war language for healing.  One of McEntyre’s examples of such an abuse was the phrase “battling depression.”  To her this is a highly questionable way to use the word “battle.” To my belief McEntyre’s opinion in Caring for Words in a Culture Full of Lies is wrong. The phrase “battling depression” is not an abuse of language. Perhaps using war language for other circumstances is an abuse. However, when in context to depression there’s no doubt in my mind that war language is appropriate, because depression really and truly is a battle.

For anyone who has dealt with depression personally, they know that depression is a battle. Some might suggest that the word “struggle” would be more appropriate than “battle.” To use a word such as “struggle” in place of “battle” I feel would completely take away the from the severity that is depression. It’s not as simple as a small infection where antibiotics are taken for ten days and then they’re better. It’s not as simple as getting over a stomach bug. It’s not as simple as getting over the average cold. These things are more like struggles, small to medium hindrances in a person’s daily life. “Struggle” does not effectively portray depression.

Depression is far more than a small hindrance because it not only affects a person’s everyday life, but it affects their life every day. I personally have been battling with depression since I was 11, meaning I can confirm that depression isn’t as simple as being sad. Depression is being so sad that you can’t function. It’s going through weeks where you are numb to anything, so any kind of feeling is welcome, even if it’s negative. Depression is books, once beloved, now lying forgotten, with the loss of a will to even turn a page. People make your fists clench in irritation or your muscles tense from apprehension. Eating disgusts you. Bright colors make you dizzy and irritable. It’s losing the will to live-to exist.

While the battle with depression is not physical, does it really have to be physical to be called a battle? While a person battling depression doesn’t use weapons in the traditional sense, they still use what will be effective against depression. A common phrase from mental health counselors is “what can you put in your toolbox?” What this means is phrases, thoughts, activities, people, and bible verses can you pack away so that you make sure you’re prepared the next time you start slipping into depression. A recurring instance for me is that an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness seems to seep into my thoughts and being. Now I could let this take hold of me, or I could use the “weapons” I’ve gathered in the past seven years. Sometimes I might need to go running, sometimes I talk to friends, sometimes I remember times I did a good job, and sometimes the only thing I can do is repeat a bible verse over and over in my head. I still consider this fighting though, and without fighting and battling my depression, I cannot say for sure that I’d be here today.

Yes, it’s war language to describe healing, and it’s hard to discern exactly what McEntyre has a problem with while talking about this “abuse.” It’s possible that McEntyre sees war and healing as polar opposites. That is not the case. In some cases something negative can bring about a positive aspect. Sometimes a forest needs to burn down so that it can grow again and be healthier. Branches sometimes need to be pruned off so the plant as whole can do better.  When we battle depression we are fighting against the negative things, so that we as a whole can do better. We are not fighting the healing. Saying that we battle depression also doesn’t mean that we think good will always come from a battle. But forcing down one area will allow us to grow in another.

It’s also possible that McEntyre fears that the phrase “battling depression” is an abuse of language in the sense that it might take away from the severity of actual war. However, if this is what she thinks, then once again I believe she is wrong. Why? Because of the biggest cause of death in the military. Many would think that the main cause of death in the military would be the obvious answer of war. Upon further research I found out that is not the case. Starting at 2011 and onward the leading cause of death in the military is suicide. (Zoroya) For the years 2012 and 2013 a study was done which showed a different result than what people might have originally suspected. “For those last two years, suicide outranked war, cancer, heart disease, homicide, transportation accidents and other causes as the leading killer, accounting for about three in 10 military deaths each of those two years.” (Zoroya)

None of this is to say that war is not a serious issue because I wholeheartedly believe it is. This is to say that depression is a serious issue as well. Depression can take deaths just like war can. At times in history, depression can take even more deaths than war or other major killers did. If McEntyre is afraid of normalizing war language she’s failing to realize that depression is a war as well. Depression is just one more thing we need to fight in order to stay alive.

Maybe McEntyre doesn’t see the severity of depression in our world and that could be why she doesn’t think “battling depression” is appropriate. However in The Noonday Demon the author Solomon shows the true brutality of depression in America. There are many startling facts that seem to further disprove McEntyre’s statement. For example, one of these startling statistics in The Noonday Demon is on depression. “More Americans kill themselves with guns than are murdered with them every year in the United States.” (Solomon) Suicide, according to the World Health Organization in 1998, was the cause of 2 percent of deaths worldwide, putting suicide ahead of both war and homicide. Every seventeen minutes someone in the U.S. commits suicide. (Solomon) While not every single suicide or suicide attempt is because of depression, seventy-five percent of those who commit suicide are clinically depressed. (10 Misconceptions) So if McEntyre doesn’t believe depression is severe enough for the word battle, then I believe she is completely incorrect. These statistics show what a major problem suicide is. In addition to this not all the deaths or attempts were reported so even these statistics aren’t completely accurate. There are far more people who are depressed or who have tried to commit suicide than could ever be fully recorded. Not every person who has tried to commit suicide will be willing to come forward because it is such a personal and honestly embarrassing memory. Either way, with or without every person coming forward the facts are there, so if McEntyre does in fact believe depression isn’t severe enough for the word battle, then she would be wrong.

Now maybe because of McEntyre’s love for words she doesn’t disagree with the severity of depression, but simply that the word “battle” is not a proper fit, or that it’s only a proper fit because of how our recent culture has shaped the word and usage of it. However if looked back at the etymology of the word “battle” it would be realized that this is still not the case. The word meant in the 1300’s in Old French “inner turmoil; harsh circumstances” so it’s not something new that this word has been used for. In addition to this the earliest meaning of the word was from Latin, at it meant “to beat.” (Harper) So how could this be a misuse of the word if this is pretty much what the word was originally meant for? Also, it can be used as a metaphor to effectively portray what those who have depression are going through.

While we don’t truly know McEntyre’s reasoning for being against the phrase “battling depression” without talking to her, because her book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies doesn’t spend a lot of time on the matter, I still believe it is plain and simple. “Battling depression” is not an abuse of language because anyone who has dealt with depression personally or had a loved one who dealt with it, will understand. They will understand that depression is not simple or easy. Depression is a force to be reckoned with and fought against. People can have depression, people might struggle with depression, but to defeat depression I believe you have to battle it.


“10 Misconceptions About Suicide.” California State University Northridge. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

Harper, Douglas. “Battle.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

McEntyre, Marilyn Chandler. Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2009. 13. Print.

Solomon, Andrew. “VII Suicide.” The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. New York: Scribner, 2001. 248 and 255. Print.

Zoroya, Gregg. “Suicide Surpassed War as the Military’s Leading Cause of Death.” USA Today. Gannett, 31 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.