One of the things that often gets lost in discussions of depression is that you know it's ridiculous. You know it's ridiculous while you're experiencing it. You know that most people manage to listen to their messages, and eat lunch, and organise themselves to take a shower and go out the front door, and that it's not a big deal. And yet you are nonetheless in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it.
Having always imagined myself in a fairly slim minority, I suddenly saw that I was in a vast company. Difference unites us. While each of these experiences can isolate those who are affected, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles connect them profoundly. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.
Then I repeated these words to my spirits: 'Leave me be; give me peace; and let me do the work of my life. I will never forget you.' Something about that incantation was particularly appealing to me. 'I will never forget you'-- as though one had to address the pride of the spirits, as though one wanted them to feel good about being exorcised.
It is important not to suppress your feelings altogether when you are depressed. It is equally important to avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage. You should steer clear of emotionally damaging behavior. People forgive, but it is best not to stir things up to the point at which forgiveness is required. When you are depressed, you need the love of other people, and yet depression fosters actions that destroy that love. Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.
I felt a funeral in my brain, and mourners to and fro kept treading, treading till I felt that sense was breaking through. And when they all were seated, a service, like a drum, kept beating, beating, till I felt my mind was going numb. And then I heard them lift a box and creak across my soul with those same boots of lead again, then space began to toll, as if the heavens were a bell and being were an ear, and I, and silence, some strange race wrecked, solitary, here. Just then, a plank in reason broke, and I fell down and down and hit a world at every plunge, and finished knowing then.
Parenthood abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger, and the more alien the stranger, the stronger the whiff of negativity. We depend on the guarantee in our children's faces that we will not die. Children whose defining quality annihilates that fantasy of immortality are a particular insult; we must love them for themselves, and not for the best of ourselves in them, and that is a great deal harder to do. Loving our own children is an exercise for the imagination.
The most important thing to remember about depression is this: you do not get the time back. It is not tacked on at the end of your life to make up for the disaster years. Whatever time is eaten by a depression is gone forever. The minutes that are ticking by as you experience the illness are minutes you will not know again.
There is a false moral imperative that seems to be all-around us that treatment of depression, the medications and so on, are an artifice, and that it's not natural. And I think that's very misguided. It would be natural for people's teeth to fall out, but there is nobody militating against toothpaste, at least not in my circles.
We don't seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences. We cannot bear a pointless torment, but we can endure great pain if we believe that it's purposeful. Ease makes less of an impression on us than struggle. We could have been ourselves without our delights, but not without the misfortunes that drive our search for meaning. 'Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities,' St. Paul wrote in Second Corinthians, 'for when I am weak, then I am strong.'
<< previousnext >>