This quote might be a little tortured to read. It also might fall under the category of thinking that romanticizes the depressive. Yet if you stick with it, there’s something very accurate about the train of thought. Perhaps “know” should be in quotes.
“This is the great lesson the depressive learns: Nothing in the world is inherently compelling. Whatever may be really “out there” cannot project itself as an affective experience. It is all a vacuous affair with only a chemical prestige. Nothing is either good or bad, desirable or undesirable, or anything else except that it is made so by laboratories inside us producing the emotions on which we live. And to live on our emotions is to live arbitrarily, inaccurately—imparting meaning to what has none of its own. Yet what other way is there to live? Without the ever-clanking machinery of emotion, everything would come to a standstill. There would be nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to be, and no one to know. The alternatives are clear: to live falsely as pawns of affect, or to live factually as depressives, or as individuals who know what is known to the depressive. How advantageous that we are not coerced into choosing one or the other, neither choice being excellent. One look at human existence is proof enough that our species will not be released from the stranglehold of emotionalism that anchors it to hallucinations. That may be no way to live, but to opt for depression would be to opt out of existence as we consciously know it.”
― Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race
Here’s a profile of Spalding Gray by Oliver Sacks that appeared in the New Yorker this April. “The Catastrophe: Spalding Gray’s Brain Injury.” The subtitle is a bit misleading, you might think it deals with neuroscience. What it really chronicles is a slow, but seemingly unavoidable descent toward suicide. It is very dark. Those that recall Spaldings performances during his popularity will recall that he was the essence of life. When he first disappeared I seem to recall the press treated it as if it were a mystery. To hear this recounting is chilling. Highly recommended, if you’re up for it. Not recommended if you’re depressed.
“You are constantly told in depression that your judgment is compromised, but a part of depression is that it touches cognition. That you are having a breakdown does not mean that your life isn’t a mess. If there are issues you have successfully skirted or avoided for years, they come cropping back up and stare you full in the face, and one aspect of depression is a deep knowledge that the comforting doctors who assure you that your judgment is bad are wrong. You are in touch with the real terribleness of your life. You can accept rationally that later, after the medication sets in, you will be better able to deal with the terribleness, but you will not be free of it. When you are depressed, the past and future are absorbed entirely by the present moment, as in the world of a three-year-old. You cannot remember a time when you felt better, at least not clearly; and you certainly cannot imagine a future time when you will feel better.”
― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
According to Serani, the best thing you can do for someone with depression is to be there. “When I was struggling with my own depression, the most healing moments came when someone I loved simply sat with me while I cried, or wordlessly held my hand, or spoke warmly to me with statements like ‘You’re so important to me.’ ‘Tell me what I can do to help you.’ ‘We’re going to find a way to help you to feel better.’”
Here’s a short, convincing account of depression from Marisa McPeck-Stringham at Huffington Post. She touches on quite a few of the experiences depressed people face — the difficulty of realizing when depression returns, the reactions of others (usually not helpful), the difference between depression and grief, what helps her “head off depression at the pass,” the isolation that is both symptom and fuel for depression. Reading first-person accounts can help spark recognition as well as lessen isolation, if you happen to be depressed.
Well worth a read.
Despite all social stigmas to the contrary or people accusing me of being “crazy,” I’m not ashamed to admit that I have depression. Just like I’m not ashamed to admit that I have asthma.
So let me tell you what depression is like for me. It is debilitating. It makes mundane, ordinary tasks like taking a shower or making the bed seem impossible. It is soul-sucking. It breaks you down into a person who no longer feels anything but apathy. It also makes you feel completely worthless and unlovable. When I’m in the throes of depression my brain lies to me and tells me that I am worth nothing. No one cares about me. The world would be a better place if I died. And when you have all this negative self-talk running through your head all day long, no amount of fluffy kitten pictures is going to take that away.
“…trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn’t going to work.”
― Allie Brosh – Hyperbole and a Half