The muse

“No, it’s not that simple.” he frowned, frustrated.
“Depression is… it’s a muse, like love. You can write about it endlessly because it’s multidimensional and you always feel it differently. If you could ever pin it down in a song, a sonnet, a chord, a movement… It would be understood, rationalised, and boxed. You could dust off your hands and be contented to know that you have captured depression perfectly – no one would ever need to try and express it again You would only ever need that one ditty. So you and I will have wildly different interpretations and expressions.

“But then how will we know which one is more accurate?”

“Well, see depression should be categorised, boxed and treated by the psychologists and psychiatrists. There will be a day where they subdivide each broad idea into specific illnesses with very specific treatment, like pain medication today works for tension, muscle soreness, spasms, and so on. But until then, we will sit and try to capture its esoteric essence, because, while it often is chemical, it doesn’t feel that way. You feel it existentially, emotionally, spiritually. We have to try and put it into words so that the people for whom the medicine isn’t working don’t feel so goddamn alone. We need to play the rhythm they syncronise with and cry to because it sums up what they feel, we need to pull the things out of them that decay inside of them. You… you see, I’m manic depressive, by today’s definitions, and what that’s like, is to have a colourful and warm room, filled with love and life, lit by sunlight through large open windows where the night never comes… until it does. It comes unexpectedly, on a Wednesday afternoon while you’re replying to an email about the PowerPoint presentation scheduled for tomorrow. And the sun drowns in dark.

In a moment, you’re in a room lit by one candle, and you can watch in terror as it flickers. The horror isn’t in the unknown things in the dark; it’s of the absolute emptiness – the nothingness. There are no creatures, there is no one else. There’s just you, and nothing.

You don’t know how long it will be. You know the world won’t stop spinning because you’ve stopped coping, so you need to soldier on. You’re afraid of being loved because that person does not realise, on a real level, what they’re in for – the unexpected protracted and inexplicable despair that they can’t do anything to solve. You know the toll that takes on a person because you’ve seen it before. Your life is clouded by a neurosis that whispers you might be gripped by the ankle and pulled into an aphotic tomb at any moment.

You see I’m trying to paint pictures about the sensation because medicine hasn’t cured it yet. Until we can kill depression we need to try and capture it – that maggoty and decomposing apex predator that breathes death and swallows you whole. And to that end, I’ve learned to distinguish between the dark writers. There are those who, as Stephen King, write to create something dark – a story that frightens you; then there are those, like H.P. Lovecraft, who exhale darkness and likely write to try and get rid of some of it. The first is an entertainer, the second is an artist. The first suffers for his writing, the second writes because of his suffering. I have no patience for the entertainer, but through the artist, I have a better understanding of myself.”

A timid look answered him.

“I, I think I have a different feeling about mine. I don’t think we have the right words for it, we need something more universal than words to express what the feeling is. Dance or music or a hand-shaped smear on a mirror, but, to me…

I just think we can conjure up adjectives about how it’s cataclysmic and apocalyptic for its sufferers; we can discuss how it is criminally mistreated and how the solutions we have aren’t working.

But that doesn’t make a difference to me when I’m depressed. I think about it in colours. A breakup makes you blue with sadness, red with rage, black with despair and loneliness. But depression makes all those things a monotone grey. The energies associated with those feelings are vacuumed out of your soul, and replaced with listlessness.

Emotions are reactive: events make you sad, happy, morbid, angered or any other point on the spectrum of feelings. Depression isn’t an emotion. It isn’t reactive. It comes on its own and drinks the colours out of your feelings. It isn’t the consequence of an event. It’s just there, and it kills meaning. It kills energy. It kills you in every way that really matters and leaves you a vessel for a dead thing.

In deep depression, you might only stick around because suicide would hurt people who care about you. People say suicide is selfish because you have a responsibility to others, and you have so much to live for. I think of Robin Williams – he was a millionaire, and he was loved by many, but it didn’t matter. People wonder how he could be depressed with all of that going for him. They’re confusing depression and sadness. They see the golden glow of wealth, health and love, while he might have only seen grey.

There is no colour there. There is no warmth.”

He nodded, solemn.

“That’s a good explanation. And how do you feel now, today?”

“I’m… I’m alright, hey. For today, I’m feeling alright. And for today, that’s good enough.”


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