Tag Archives: Life

Depression as a Way of Life

Trying to explain depression to someone who has not experienced it is perhaps a bit like trying to explain love to someone who has never experienced it. It is not something that you can understand through books or pictures, or by watching people you know experience it. You have to live it.
Nevertheless in my never-ending quest to bridge the chasm between my life and the lives of those around me, I would like to spend a little time trying to explicate the conundrums of depression for those who have been blessed with a stable and happy mind.
There is a great deal of difference between someone who has grown up depressed versus someone who has their depression precipitated later in life. Someone who becomes depressed midway through life because, for example, a loved one died, has a whole host of life experiences that do not have the shadow of depression ever looming in the background. Their mind has experienced life without depression, and this bodes extremely well for their ability to recover and move on.
Contrast the person who becomes depressed in their 30s with one whose formative years were lived in the thrall of depression. Here can I speak from experience. One of the most common arguments against suicide is ‘but they had so much to live for.’ This is an argument that rings hollow to one who has never felt they had much to live for; what exactly do these people think there is to live for except to have positive experiences in life? You know, the exact things that someone depressed does not experience.
This is where the length of time and the age of onset of depression becomes very important. For someone whose depression onsets midway through life, their depression will be seen as a contrast to their previous life. This contrast, no doubt, is exquisitely painful, as one can come to feel they are no longer capable of feeling joy or happiness like they once did. This person has come to feel, perhaps, they do not have much to live for anymore; but this is in contrast to how they once felt, in contrast to a state of mind they have experience with.
Someone who has grown up in a state of depression does not have this contrast to look at. Perhaps they have some idyllic view of early childhood, when the fears and pains of life expressed more as occasional volleys as opposed to a sustained barrage of negative thoughts. Regardless, from the time you start becoming you (I generally believe that self-actualization largely begins with the onset of puberty and the feeling of needing to separate and differentiate oneself from their parents), you have been in a state of depression.
Every child is born with hope. For some children, the path to adulthood seems intent on wiping out that hope. Depression is not something that one can just snap out of, especially when one’s brain does not know another way of thinking; a mind that has always been depressed has nothing else to snap into. ‘Just think positively;’ another favorite line of all depressed people. Depression is more than just a way of thinking; a person’s thoughts should always be considered as subordinate to their emotional state. I can think that everyone really does care about me and wants me to be happy all I want; if I cannot feel that care, if I go among those who supposedly care for me and feel empty, my thoughts will inevitably seem folly, and one grows to feel less and less in control of their mental state.
As someone growing up with depression (and lots of anxiety to boot), every experience I had on the road to adulthood was colored by and seen through the lens of my depression. Going to school seemed a daily punishment that I could not escape from; social interactions were just a step away from embarrassment or ridicule; every day was just another long trudge until finally sleep could take me. When one grows up in constant dread of the next day, of the new experiences their life might offer them, one does not perceive themselves as having a lot to live for. One does not think of a bad day as something out of the norm; one thinks of a good day as out of the norm. This has the effect of marginalizing all positive experiences as transient; happiness seems to always be fleeting, a cruel break from the normal monotony of depression that only intensifies the feelings of loneliness and isolation as soon as it is over.
Life is, in many ways, a long series of self-fulfilling prophecies. When you grow up without the expectation of happiness or contentedness, it is very unlikely these things will just find you. There aren’t many social groups where the depressed and the optimistic exist in harmony; the philosophies and perceptions of life are as dichotomous between depressed and happy people as they are between the far-right and far-left. Thus, the depressed person very likely ends up in a social group surrounded by other depressed people. Especially as a youth, there is a great urge to be right, which can lead to the depressed self-validating their own feelings when discussing said feelings with others who understand. At this point the depressed often feel a need to ‘other’ the non-depressed, to believe that in fact there is something wrong with anyone who isn’t depressed. This starts one down the path of believing that it is correct to be depressed.
This point is one I feel anyone who has not experienced depression will find themselves puzzled by, but it is essential to understanding the growth of depression in a depressed person. What one believes to be right or correct is what one feels, much more than what one thinks; a person who grows up depressed does not think ‘oh, depression is definitely the right way to experience the world,’ they simply experience the world depressed and come think, in response to those feelings, ‘being depressed is the correct lens through which to view the world.’ At this point depression is now an ego problem as well. For the depressed person to acknowledge the way they viewed the world and the perceptions they gathered through a depressed lens may be entirely the result of depression, and not in fact the result of a correct perception of the world, is basically to acknowledge that everything you thought and believed might be wrong.
Taken together, the above two points give us a picture looking something like this: depressed people will generally come to associate with other depressed people; these people, as with any group of people with similar views, will start validating their own perceptions as correct and perceiving those who hold different views as wrong; in this way depression comes to appear, to the depressed person, as the right way to live; at this point it is very hard to see anyway out of depression, because you’ve managed to twist depression around into something viewed almost favorably. I think depressed people often can feel a sense of superiority to happy people, which makes it very hard to admit that maybe the happy people aren’t just idiots who are oblivious to the struggles and hardships of life, but perhaps are people who have found a better and healthier way of managing their way through life.
This leads us to one of the most important facets of depression: anger and self-pity. For someone who is already depressed, it is just about the most natural feeling in the world to look at someone who is happy and think ‘oh woe is me,’ and simultaneously to feel the undeniable injustice that renders some people happy and some people miserable. At the point where one believes they are on the wrong side of some sort of cosmic injustice, it is very hard not to become increasingly angry at everything. One can easily grow to believe that they have been cursed, that they are uniquely unhappy, and that the only possible escape from this is death.
At this point I want to wrap things back around to the argument against suicide: ‘but they had so much to live for.’ I hope at this point it is a little clearer as to why someone with depression might find this a rather empty argument. And this, perhaps, is a central issue in dealing with depression in our society. One cannot argue against depression anymore than one can argue against love. These are states of mind that do not necessarily have any connection to ‘logical’ or ‘rational’ trains of thought, such as might be responsive to a reasoned argument. Rather, they are states that arise out of feelings, and only arguments on that level stand a chance of success.

Only a Dream

     I was laying alone in a wide open ocean. I felt a warm breeze roll across my naked body, the waves lapping gently on my shoulders. I knew not how I came to be in this place. I lifted my head, and gazed out on the sun, breaking through the cloud line on the horizon. Bathed in the warm hues, I could not tell whether the sun was rising or falling. I turned to roll over, but found my body seemed to be locked in place. Though I should perhaps have felt a tinge of panic at this, it seemed to matter not. I felt the breeze was calling my name, though it seemed muffled for some reason. Through all this I know not how long I lay there floating. Time seemed to dilate, seconds turning into minutes, minutes to hours. After what seemed like days, I looked up to find the sun had not even changed position. It lingered still, ever rising or setting on our lives.
     Eventually I came to realize that I was no longer in the water. Though my body still slept amongst the waves, my being had somehow risen into a new, ethereal place, looking down on the crystal ocean from the hazy air above. And then I realized I was not alone. As far as I could see from this new vantage point lay reflections, shimmering in the sunlight. When they came into focus, I saw that these reflections were people, who seemed strangely familiar to me. I saw some who appeared to be flying away, away from the earth and towards the stars, pilgrims and warriors alike. The colorful nebulas enveloped them, the sun painting rainbows on the water. Others sat in front of computers, programming the lives of machines who sought either to save the world or destroy it; the line was very faint. Far off in the distance I could hear music, softly strummed on the wind, and the waves were the harmonics echoing off. Now too I felt there was a voice, a voice soft but not sad singing along with the wind and water, but again it seemed as though it came from across a valley, echoing up the mountains, the words unclear. Thousands more of these specters called the water their home, and I pondered over every one of them, their identity and purpose on the tip of my tongue, until suddenly the wind began to howl, the waves swirled ever more rapidly, and dark clouds rolled over the sun, blotting out the light and leaving me blind.
     Then I was back in the water. A warm breeze swept across my body, the waves rippling past my shoulders. I looked up and saw the sun in its entirety, for the clouds had all been blown away, rising ever higher into the aqua sky. I hoped to stay there forever.
     And then I opened my eyes. Sunlight gleamed through the window. Feet slipped onto the ground, and made their way through the day. But my thoughts dwelled always where the day began. Still I saw the shadowy forms throughout my waking hours, shapes and colors flowing past, near and yet more foreign than can be imagined. The voices bouncing off my ears, drumming a beat so very different from my own. People playing for money and for power, for fame and for infamy, for life and for death. These hollow specters try to fill their emptiness with their earthly charades. But I know better than to listen for a song that cannot be heard. Dust returns to dust. And now, I long to be back in my mind, the only thing that is mine, though it was only a dream.

When Life Just Begins

Crystal grass in flowing water,
Our secluded spot in the forest.
The waterfall slips down the rocks,
And slides into the pool of effervescence,
Where I hold you, and the world, well
That’s what tomorrow is for.

There’s the soft low roll of thunder,
My love, have no fear.
The rain slithers through the trees,
And falls down on the ethereal breeze,
While I hold you, and worrying, well
That’s what tomorrow is for.

Can you feel it? Can you feel it?
Rising from the misty glen.
Green all around, when life just begins.

A chorus of paradise, chirping in the twilight,
Serenading the moon on its slow rise.
The day is fading, but the night is new,
The stars are glowing in a luminous sky,
While I hold you, and love, well
That’s what today is for.

Can you feel it? Can you feel it?
Rising from the misty glen.
Green all around, when life just begins.

Sunset Avenue

Dawn was breaking everywhere when I came into this world anew,
And ever since, the world’s been turning, there was nothing I could do,
And I knew the light could only last so long, before it slowly slipped out of view.
So I went out on the road, not for glory or gold, I only wanted to find the truth.
And ever since I’ve been walking down this Sunset Avenue.

I passed a man with long grey hair and dull, listless eyes,
I saw a thousand stories never told amongst the lies.
And then he’s gone, I had moved on, still further down the road,
To the grave he’ll go, and we’ll never know, all the things he meant to do,
And still I searched for my answers out on Sunset Avenue.

Then I passed by the place where dreams all go to die,
And I quickened my pace, I couldn’t bear to see the faces asking “Why?”
But then I thought I heard a voice, and I thought I heard it calling for me.
Oh can’t you see, I’m still so young and free, don’t try and drag me down with you,
But I knew one day I’d be back out on Sunset Avenue.

I’ve been to the place where children go, when they die before they reach two.
And I stood on the wall, and looked out on them all, not even able to move.
And I heard them crying, all alone, in eternal solitude.
Why oh God why, did they have to die, before they had even reached two?
And here they will wait, for there is no escape from Sunset Avenue.

I saw a thousand mothers crying, with their heads all in their hands,
And some were sitting and some were lying, not even able to stand,
After the years out on the road, searching for their lost sons,
Some taken by knives, and some taken by guns, but there was nothing they could do,
But still they search, no matter how much it hurts, on Sunset Avenue.