A dragon lives in my house and I am depressed.
I am not depressed about the dragon. I feel sorry for the dragon. He/she (the jury is still out on its gender), paces the walls of his/hers aquarium/cell and mounts little desperate attempts to escape captivity. Success is limited. If the dragon were to escape it would die since it is unsuited for the climates outside its native Australia.
I feel like the dragon. Every fall I experience a sudden dive into an abyss of despair that defies all reason. Everyone has a foolproof cure for depression. Let me list them. God, medication, exercise, lifestyle change, dietary changes, reducing self-pity, increasing self-love, counselling, getting a pet, read (insert book title here), and finally shooting yourself. That last one may be crazy enough to work but it still seems like bad advice besides being messy in so many ways. Not to worry this is not a cry for help. I am just writing for the sake of information in case someone happens to take a certain unnamed idiot celebrity seriously.
There is one main reason none of the cures above cure depression. We have all met the people in life who seem perpetually of good cheer. Nothing seems to have a lasting negative impact on them. People who have come from war-torn nations, and experienced rape and murder of their loved ones and still wear an ear to ear smile almost all the time. These people seem to have a default position of infinite joy. They are beautiful. They go through life and when things get them down a little rest puts them back in touch with joy. We who live in with depression, are their counterparts. Our default position is, well whatever the opposite of joy is. So we wake up to the thought. “Why are you still alive?” while they wake up to the thought “Wow another great day to be alive!”. So they jump up and get on with their day while we simply cannot find the will to open our eyes. In reading one of the many books I mentioned before I recall a psychologist writing that what was most striking about working in an asylum was the total apathy of the patients. When something happened outside their window they would completely ignore it as though they simply didn’t care. This is the default state of the depressed. We are unvested. Those of us who have tried to think our way through it have come to realize that it has nothing to do with our circumstances. I doubt anyone wishes to live in this state of mind but it has us. A wise man I heard said, “People think they have ideas but actually ideas have people.” I suppose our state of mind may be based on ideas but it is not easily altered. For any of the cures to work the person in question would have to care. Depressed people don’t feel sorry for themselves, at least none that I have known. They simply don’t care about themselves. This is not to say we are selfless. Most of us have massive unwarranted egos. Likely trying to fabricate self-value. We aren’t especially good at fooling ourselves though so mostly it just makes people like us a little less. It is more like we are outside of ourselves. Strangers to ourselves.
As for God, as near as I can tell God is as likely to remove depression as he is to remove a basketball-sized brain tumour. I have been depressed as a believer and I have been depressed as an anti-theist but I have always asked God to set me right in those darker times whether I had faith or not. The results didn’t vary.
So the dragon wants to escape the cell. A part of me wants to escape myself. I don’t want to die. I want to be free of being alive. I don’t want to be dead. I want to be beyond life.
I am not overwhelmed by life. I am underwhelmed. We talk about freedom as though it is something we could or have achieved but the truth is we are bound by an infinite number of restrictions. Laws, religious beliefs, morals, relationships, and friends, our own physical bodies, the list goes on. The ones we chose are in large part good for us while the ones we didn’t choose are tolerable for the most part. I suspect it is these restrictions of life that mental depression rejects. We revolutionaries.
Everyone thinks they have been depressed. They have had that bout of teenage angst when self-responsibility first occurred to them. They have been rejected by someone. They have lost people or pets dear to them. They have wrestled with self-righteousness. They have experienced the existential midlife crisis. To most people, those life experiences and the unpleasant emotions in their company translate into depression. This is not what I am talking about. I am talking about a cloud of darkness that hangs over one to the degree that colour is erased literally from one’s world. Where one walks into a crowded restaurant and a hush falls. Where people instinctively move away as one approaches knowing only that they must make way for something evil. I am not talking about feeling sad I am talking about being the sadness. I am Jack’s dragon. ( Sorry bad Fight Club joke.)
I have a most enviable life and family. I don’t need circumstantial changes. It might seem that I have a nihilistic outlook but I assure you that is not the case. On the contrary, I believe in good. I believe that everyone matters. I believe that each little thing we do is very important. I also believe that no negative emotion is worthy of entertainment. That love and freedom are of infinite importance. I am not saying depression is unstoppable. I find laughter is actually pretty decent medicine. I am saying depression is real and as for the idiot celebrity who claimed it isn’t, I sincerely hope he is fortunate enough to remain the idiot he is on the matter. And that’s all I have to say about that.