madness doesn't frighten me

Mar 26, 2009
I can never see my own depression clearly until I'm walking out the other side of it. In the middle, it's all made up of maintaining, keeping myself together enough to get through the day. I've been depressed enough that I've had to spend all my breaks crying uncontrollably in the bathroom at work, but never enough that I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. That would be too much like letting other people know something about me.

Once I'm getting better, though, I can look behind me -- brief glimpses, lest like Orpheus I lose whatever it was I went down there for in the first place -- look back and say, "Wow, that was bad." In his book The Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon says that most suicides happen in this place; not in the depression, which is too black and smothering to permit any action at all, but in the walking back, when you look behind you too long and realize you'll end up back there again someday. I've never been suicidal either, but I can see why you might.

Depression isn't madness, it's the place on the other side of madness, the dark mirror of the daily world. And I don't mean dark in a mystical, romantic sense, either; dark in the sense of bleak. Grey. Dull. Not even dead, but in limbo; the misery of existence without any of the spark of life.

The madness on the way back. Somewhere in between the everyday world of friends and lovers and jobs and passions, between that and the black sucking hole of depression, is the misty, colorful place of poetry and visions, of hallucinations and paranoia, of dreams and truth and ecstasy. It's not really a place you can stay for very long, and it can be hard to traverse, and sometimes you don't make it. I can't imagine seeking it out intentionally, because the boundary between that and the black hole is less a boundary than an invisible, sudden drop. But it isn't frightening.


Livia Indica said...

This is one of the finest descriptions of depression I have ever read.

Jenavira said...

Thank you. It seems strange to have to figure out how to define what's going on inside my own head, but it does seem to help. And it's an ongoing process.