I thought I would write something quite different, at least for a few lines. I came across this painting by Van Gogh recently and I think it is the best artistic depiction of what depression (or its more traditional name, melancholia) is, how it effects the person. He understood this disease quite well, and eventually it took his own life and ended a brilliant artistic output. I don’t want to say too much at the moment on this topic, except to say that I myself have often dealt with this condition in my own life. The effects are always difficult. Recently I have admitted to myself that this is a deeper condition in my own being than I had previously wanted to admit.
As much as I love beauty and eroticism, I also know that life is more than a unending journey of pleasure. Pain and suffering are part of our condition. Often, especially in today’s world, that suffering can be psychic. The psychic pain unleashed by depression, or melancholia, can be as difficult to endure as the pain brought on by more physical ailments.
Even though many famous, even great people from all walks of life have suffered from depression, there is still a stigma attached to this condition. And yet 10-15% of all people will go through at least one major depressive episode in their lives. For a subset of those, depression will be a lifelong, ongoing struggle. Artistic and creative people tend to suffer from this in a disproportionate way, although others types have dealt with this too, such as Winston Churchill or even the former quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Terry Bradshaw. But no matter who has dealt with this condition, as a society we don’t like to talk about psychiatric diseases. The diseases that afflict the brain are the most difficult for people to deal with, yet they are out, as real and as biological as diabetes. In fact, I think diabetes is a good corollary to depression, since it is often undetected and may do great damage because of that, and it is heavily influenced by one’s environment. With diabetes, life style can trigger and inflame the disease, specifically diet and lack of exercise; with depression, it is often triggered by outside stresses, the particular stresses that the modern, industrialized, technological world provides. In its most extreme form, depression can lead to suicide. Most of us have known at least someone who has fallen to this, and we often wonder why; if we understood better how depression works, perhaps a lot of these tragedies could be avoided. Depression also often hides under other conditions, such alcoholism or drug use.
I sense the digital world, especially the blogging world, is filled with depressives. It is an easy escape, and much of the anger and bitterness, as well as distorted thoughts, almost paranoia about the modern world, are often reflections of depressive minds. That is one of the reasons I tend to stay away from the more bitter blogs, especially those of a political or social bent. They fuel in an unhealthy way my own tendency towards depression, or melancholia. I find writing about sex, eroticism and beauty to be a pleasant distraction from the realities of life. Many of my more sexual post are meant to be nothing more than the heights of frivolity and frolicking fancy. When I start writing about other issues, such as religion, things become more serious, and this can be a little taxing for my mind.
I also wonder what the more traditionally minded religious people out there think about modern psychological ailments. As someone who believes in God, I also believe there is an intersection between the spiritual and psychological. Where to draw the line between the two is hard to say. But I often find a lot of religious people tend to dismiss much of psychology as being somehow frivolous or even dangerous. But the brain is an organ, and like all other organs in our body, is susceptible to disease and problems.
So I might more on this topic. It is also good to remember, as Memorial Day ends, that a lot of veterans suffer from depression and even more extreme mental ailments. Wars, although often necessary, do take a high toll on those who have to fight in them, even those who survive the experience. We should always pray for our Vets.