It is insidious. It can be attracted by the most innocuous of happenings, such as losing a sock. You can expect it after a mini-disaster, but it doesn’t come. It can come on a bright or a dark day, a high day or a normal day. It can come when you win the race, but stay away when you come last. You cannot predict when it will come.
I fully understand why those under its spell commit suicide. It makes any achievement worthless, makes the future into a black pit. Those who succumb may be weaker than most or stronger than most. Weaker because they give in to the black dog, stronger because it takes a sort of strength to kill one’s self.
The black dog turns you in on your self, eats you up internally, until you are a shell. The world may see you smiling and joking, while inside you are decaying, eaten up inside like a caterpillar infected by an ichneumon fly. Everything is filtered through it, so it affects everything that you do. Everything is flavoured by it, or more correctly, over-flavoured by it. Sweetness is saccharine, bitterness is burning, sourness is acrid, saltiness is excessively salty, pungency is repelling. Everything is metallic in feel or taste or smell.
I call depression ‘entering the chrome world’. In the chrome world everything is a glitzy, like a 1950’s world in the ‘modern’ style. Everything is sharp-edged and out to snag you or harm you. All surfaces are slick and smooth and encourage things that you put down to slide and slip. Lights are neon bright and shine into your eyes. Voices are loud and raucous, high and penetrating. You know that if you put down a drink it will slide away or get knocked over, and a dropped coin will roll away either to an awkward place or will disappear. You know that this will happen, even if it doesn’t.
You don’t feel sorry for yourself. That would involve caring. You could be outwardly cheerful and sociable, (though it is unlikely) and yet be withering inside. More often you just want to be alone, which can upset loved ones who want to help you.
Depression makes you irritable. You don’t see why others care and it seems so pointless to you. If others ask how you feel it is impossible to say. They may have felt ‘down’, and they know that they have been able to overcome that feeling with effort, or maybe chocolate and a glass of wine, so they don’t realise that depression can’t be shifted simply by making an effort, or with simple treats. If you want someone to do something and they ask why, it can infuriate you. Petty things, like finding a knife to be blunt when you need a sharp one become frustrating out of all proportion.
Depression can only be alleviated by time or chemicals. Doctors will prescribe drugs to, hopefully, stop the onset of a bout of depression, or to dispel it. They seem to work pretty well, and with modern drugs you no longer need to be ‘doped to the eyeballs’. Nevertheless the depression still seeps through at times. If life is a switchback, up and down all the time, drugs can reduce the depths of the downs, but probably also reduce the height of the ups.
Depression is also associated with dissociation. More or less this is an extension of the lack of caring, about what other people do, what they might do to you. It’s like being in the cab of a truck, but as a passenger, not as the driver. The driver decides where you are going and you have no input into that. It’s as if the driver won’t even acknowledge your presence and indeed in extreme dissociation, its as if you have no physical presence in the cab of the truck.
This is not a form of fatalism as you don’t care what happens, whereas in fatalism, you might care keenly what happens but be unable to do anything about it.
Depression trumps love, and depressive people often push loved ones away. If the loved one doesn’t know what is happening that can be distressing to them and may actually create a split. Even if the loved one does know, the depressive person’s desire to be alone may be, will be, felt by the loved one as rejection.
A depressive episode is endless. By this I mean that the depressed person will not and cannot believe that the episode will end. The depressed person will not be aware, often, that they are suffering a depressive episode, so they do not know that it will almost certainly end at some stage.
I’ll wrap up with two points.
Firstly, I believe that it is impossible for a person who does not suffer from depression to understand what it is like, just as one could not imagine what it would be like to be a bat. Sure, one is a mental difference and the other is a physical difference, but to experience something is a mental experience, man or bat, depressive or non-depressive.
Secondly, I am not currently experiencing a depressive episode, or am anywhere near experiencing one. I can’t remember exactly how I got onto this track, apart from the fact that I was trying to find a subject for this weeks blog and this somehow came to mind. So there is no need to send out rescue parties!
Actually a third wrap up point comes to me. In discussing what makes a person, philosophers often conjecture what would happen if someone’s brain were transported into another body. My third point is the question “Assuming that it is agreed that the transplanted brain results in the transplantation of the person, would that person be susceptible to depression, or would it be possible that the new body’s chemistry would be different enough that the person would no longer suffer from depressive episodes?” Certainly a large part of our personalities are determined by the subtleties of the chemistry that takes place in our bodies, and depression can be alleviated by drugs. Maybe I’ll go deeper into that another time.