There is a calmness to depression, an opiated sort of detachment from the sharper edges of reality even as those edges continue to cut us to ribbons. Some believe depression is a sign of weakness: I can’t offer a ten point logical argument against such narrow thinking because logic and the emotions rarely sit well together. All I can say is that depression seems to occur most in those who both think and feel very strongly and who become aware of the discord between those vital facets of human consciousness.
Which is why the calmness of a deeper state of depression can appear like a relief. All those powerful emotions, all those overwhelming trains of thought collide and explode like thunderstorms across the sky of the mind until something has to give. We tend to know it’s not really anybody else’s fault so becoming angry with the world doesn’t bring the same relief that turning anger inwards does. Yes, depression is anger turned inwards. When autonomy, when self-reliance and aspiration are snatched out of our hands by a relentless torrent of frustration, we take it out on ourselves and we close down.
Few people discuss it despite even the most conservative estimates pointing to something like one in six experiencing genuine depression in their lives. That’s more than a billion people, most of whom struggle to cope with their problems alone rather than admit to their distress. Meaning that on top of depression itself they have to also live with fear of exposure, they somehow have to look like they’re fine while their inner world sinks further in on itself, the distance between truth and falsehood stretched beyond limit by the effort of putting on a public face every day.
The deeper you fall the calmer you feel until you almost feel nothing at all. But the world still hammers on your door, the public face must still be worn, and feeling nothing becomes the ultimate goal. How to feel nothing when the world demands you feel what it expects you to feel? Depression’s final gift: leave the world behind. Unruly, disruptive, unsettling world. You’re happy without it, right?
Wrong. Of course wrong, but logic cannot always clear a path when emotion has become so overgrown. And now it is our own bramble depression cutting us to pieces which would be ironically amusing if it weren’t so brutally tragic. Keep calm and carry on? Surely it has to be better to raise the alarm and let the world know we’re struggling?