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We're all going to die: on depression
My name is Alex. For a long time I was depressed, but I’m not anymore.
I do not write this thinking that I will never be depressed again. I might be. It might be worse. Much, much worse. I might kill myself. This last is not me saying I want to kill myself — quite the opposite. But one never knows. I am not so naive as to write that I will never kill myself. Who knows? I am 34. There is still quite a bit of time left.
I was depressed for a long time. I can’t quite remember the first time I realised that I was, but I have retroactively applied all sort of labels to myself. One never knows how much one is editing one’s own past, so let us settle on this: depression has been a part of my life, it has shuddered through my bones, for what feels like a long time. This, of course, is relative. It only feels like a long time. That’s the thing with depression — it makes time expand and contact contra what you want, what you feel you need.
Depression does a very good job of telling you what you need. It convinces you under bright white lights of what you most definitely need to be, then it places that ’need’ just out of reach. You are Tantalus, nude and grasping, Hell-frozen.
Depression’s currency is hope. You wake up mornings with the sun on your face and you feel better. But you learn to fear hope, because it buoys you before it drowns you. (When you are depressed, you live and grope and hope only in metaphor.) You say, I could deal with the depression, the blank, windowless days in the soul’s underground, if only I didn’t have hope I’d get out. But you do, and then you don’t. Curse your rotten luck.
Depression likes the foetid warmth of the past. It likes to wait until you close your eyes and really cosy up to you, telling you everything that should have been, everything you should have done. Depression likes show, not tell: it would make a tremendously good GCSE narrative writer. It throws sheets of memories across your mind’s eye. It expects you to cower, so you do.
My depression used to make me see things. Horrible things. It would take my worst memories and amplify them, contort them into grotesques, force them into the spotlight. My response was always the same: I would pull myself away. I would not look. You can’t make me look. I would ride it out. But, one night, I looked it dead in the face. I said, Show me. And there was nothing there but the whorling of dust.
Like any Horror aficionado knows — the anticipation is always worse.
This looking — really looking — was the beginning, but also the end.
A lot of my depression, I realised, came from the things I didn’t want to face. So I made myself face them. And I realised that one day I was going to die. I thought about this for a long time. I am going to die. I read that I’ll live for four thousand weeks, on average. I have no control. I have precious little control over anything. But there is this time. That is something. When I die, few will remember me. In a matter of years after this, nobody will remember me. This is a desirable state of affairs.
My impermanence means that I have a very limited amount of time to do what I want to do. But if I don’t do what I want, or don’t work that out, soon I will be dead.
We’ll all be dead.
It doesn’t really matter.
I’d presumed that the above was depressing, but I’ve found it liberating. You, reader, are going to die. It’s not even that far away. Chances are, you won’t be remembered much after that. But do you think Shakespeare cares about his legacy? He’s dead.
And so, soon, will you be.
But, for now, you are not.
What are you going to do?
Either way, it doesn’t matter.
What a wonderful realisation that is.