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.
So funny to come across this post, I was planning on posting something similar myself soon.
Depression is an awful saboteur and one I struggle with myself. I’ve experienced a bit of a dip the last week or so and I’m just patiently waiting for it to cycle out… So strange to feel so bad for no apparent reason – when everything is going really well – and just feeling like crying all the time.
I hate to read that someone else has similar struggles but in a sick way I find it comforting. Thanks for sharing.
Thag Jones said:
Yup, this has been more or less a lifelong struggle for me as well. I tend not to see it as a disease in the sense of diabetes, because with the latter there is no amount of willing yourself out of it. I can live without antidepressant medication; I can’t live without my thyroid meds. That doesn’t mean the depression doesn’t have physical effects of course, but I’ll leave it at that since I’m obviously no expert on the topic!
Suffice to say, being truly depressed is hell. When music doesn’t move you, you can’t even cry, everything is blank and desperate and you’re half tempted to walk into oncoming traffic… Yeah, not fun. I honestly don’t know how I got through sometimes without God – I mean, He was there, but I didn’t believe He was there, so things could get pretty dark.
And if you saw my recent very small post on politics, the ensuing bullshit is exactly why I rarely post on that sort of thing any more, nor do I pay much attention to it in general any more.
Thag Jones said:
Also it seems to be a vicious cycle where the negative thinking causes the dip in serotonin and that in turn causes more negative thinking. It can be hard to stop that train but I think the trick is to try to recognize when it’s starting, before the train has left the station and can still be stopped more easily. Or you can still get off before it gains too much speed. Or something. 😉
The way these things work isn’t fully understood though; that’s just my take on it.
Racer X said:
Thanks. I thought it was something I wanted to write about, since few people talk about it in this part of the blogging world. Most of the inhabitants would probably think depression nothing more than a modern creation of degenerate psychologists.
“And if you saw my recent very small post on politics, the ensuing bullshit is exactly why I rarely post on that sort of thing any more, nor do I pay much attention to it in general any more.”
Yeah, I read that. It illustrated well the often sanctimonious and argumentative bitterness that occurs around such online discussions. Like you I tend to avoid those things. They are just too negative.
I think depression is similar to diabetes in the sense that one’s environment contributes a large part to the problem. With depression the cycle can be vicious: depressive thoughts lead to a bad environment which in turn lead to deeper depression. A lot of diabetes can be avoided by simply living a healthy lifestyle. Obesity for the most part can be avoided and most people can exercise.
The nature of depression is still being learned by scientists, but the chemical and genetic aspects are at this point beyond question. What often triggers major and lasting depression are repeated outside stress events, often starting in childhood or adolescence.
The good news is that depression, like diabetes, can be managed, avoided, and even cured. It is usually a holistic approach, from lifestyle to medication, if needed. But if gone untreated, it can be very devastating. Suicide is the most obvious example.
I suffer from depression too. Thanks for writing, it helps to know that I’m not the only one.
Racer X said:
Thanks. I plan on writing more about this too. You definitely are not the only one.