As with ‘autism’, the word ‘depression’ is used to describe not just the condition but the reaction to the condition within the context of our culture. Many autistic people born into this culture end up with PTSD, or various anxiety disorders. ‘Experts’ don’t know what a relaxed autistic person looks like because they’ve never seen one. I digress.
So too is the case with ‘depression’. Our culture does not deal well with emotional and mental states outside a certain range, and so anyone whose mental state is outside that range, has to deal with not only their mental state, but also the social consequences. It is common to put huge amounts of effort into maintaining a facade that everything is okay, and that you are happy, even when you are not. Sadness is taboo. When someone asks “how are you?” the socially appropriate answer is usually “Fine thanks, and you?”.
Our culture absolutely does not know how to support people in mentall ill states, so anyone in a mentally ill state is generally isolated/anxious and a bunch of other issues that aren’t actually caused by the mentally ill state, but rather by nolonger being met where they are at by those around them, and also by the mentally ill person’s resistence to the blessings offered by the mental ‘illness’ (I’ll expand on this in a bit).
I’m explaining this, so that I can talk about actual mentally ill states (in this case depression) rather than the stress associated with them.
There is a form of depression without anxiety/stress/exhaustion. That is to say, it is possible to be depressed without suffering at all. In fact, it can be extremely peaceful and an excellent vehicle for inner change.
Depression to me, is what I used to call ‘nullification’. All the forms of stimulous that would usually be fun/interesting/satisfying have no effect at all. Excitement, enthusiasm and fun (at least in the traditional sense) become impossible. As Allie Brosh puts it: “I don’t have feelings anymore”. An eventual consequence of this is that all possible actions or non-actions have equal value, which means it is easy to change things about your life. Actions you would previously have considered risky, now seem acceptable because everything feels the same.
Idris once told me:
Each mental illness has a different purpose. Depression is for “an extended period of deep thought” which can continue for anything from a day to an entire lifetime as needed. It is not possible to see the world clearly while in any of the mentally ill states. We use these states to change who we are.
Knowing this, whenever I find myself in a period of depression, I focus on body and general situation maintenance. I eat food for nutrition even if I get no pleasure from it. I exercise, I sleep; whatever needs to be done.
And all the while I wait for my frustrated displeasure to abait.
Eventually, when all excitement is gone, my mind gets into a restful state and I find myself thinking about things, situations, people. The thinking has a different quality, perhaps because I’m not distracted by potential future excitement. Perhaps it’s something else. But some kind of different ‘thing to do/be/change’ comes to me (sometimes it’s quite subtle), and then I’m no longer in that state and I find myself enjoying a particular stimulous again.
However, the purpose of depression cannot be achieved while I hold in my mind a shred of hope that I will ever feel anything again. If I think that it will pass, then it does not. Only when I’ve abandoned hope for escape, can depression fulfill it’s function.
Being suicidal/wanting to not exist is a different mental illness.
Not sure how wise it is to write this while depressed. I’ll ask someone who isn’t depressed what they think of it.
I’m not very satisfied with this post, and it’s not just because I’m depressed. I feel like there’s something specific I’ve not said, or something that could be expressed better, or just in a different order. I actually started with the Idris quote and then wrote the rest of the post around that and wasn’t quite sure which bits to put afterwards and which bits to put before. You can probably tell.
I didn’t expand upon “not seeing the world clearly”. I could have rambled more about the supreme neutrality of the depressed state and linked to a Futurama clip.