Depression

Why do people insist on classifying depression as an illness? That’s better, of course, than treating it as a personal weakness – ‘pull yourself together!’ – but it implies that something is wrong with your body or mind.

Is this so? Looking around me at the state of the world today, and the human condition generally, it seems perfectly normal: to despair, deeply, of everything and of ourselves. Only callow and stupid folk can be cheerful inwardly. From which it follows that most deep and intelligent people are simply putting on a brave face. Depression is normal, the only rational way of looking at things, certainly at this period in world history. It’s happiness that is the disease.

I hope that doesn’t make any of my readers depressed. If it does, join the club.

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2 Responses to Depression

  1. 1. A person with undiagnosed cancer, Parkinson’s Disease or heart disease – and many other complaints – is likely to suffer depression as a symptom of their physical problem. In these instances their chronically lowered mood has nothing to do with the state of the world – and the sufferer at that stage is not even aware they have a serious ailment.
    2. Children and young adolescents can have depression/anxiety, who often have very little awareness of the world’s problems. Frequently, it is true, many depressed young people grow up in highly disadvantageous circumstances – their parents are poor and/ or abusive; however, there are no shortage of cases of young people who suffer depression/anxiety whose family circumstances are overwhelmingly positive.
    3. The 20 December 2018 edition of the LRB contains a review article about Sylvia Plath – by Joanna Biggs – one of literature’s most famous sufferers of an acute form depression. Her novel is entitled The Bell Jar, which is a metaphor for her feeling trapped in an intolerable psychic reality. The suffering she experiences did not emanate from despair at the state of the world. Biggs quotes Plath: ‘You are afraid of being alone in your own mind’. The review article is worth reading. I once heard a former sufferer of depression, who had attempted suicide, state in a radio interview that he had not wanted to die per se, but his attempt to overcome his intra-psychic hell was akin to man whose house is on fire: the overwhelming impulse is to get out.
    4. Depression/anxiety is also suffered occasionally by well-off Republicans and Conservatives, who fully embrace the current state of the world. The reign of their parties and the dominance of their preferred economic constellation does not protect them the ‘black dog’.
    5. Depression/anxiety is a heterogeneous phenomenon with many different causes and effects, which cannot be reduced to despair at the state of world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TJ says:

    Modern capitalism through marketing tries to convince people that pursuing happiness through consumption is ‘normal’ and desirable, and the US constitution speaks of the pursuit of happiness as a right. This delusionary state of affairs helps explain why American society seems to be constantly teetering on the edge of unreality, and perhaps why so many are clinically depressed trying to be happy (although Trumpism surely hasn’t helped) Being depressed about the current state of affairs is surely justified, but I hope not at the expense of optimism, however we interpret the world as ever ‘the point is to change it’. ‘Happy’ New Year Bernard.

    Liked by 1 person

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