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When someone says they're “depressed,” they can be referring to a one-day dispiritedness. Or even something lighter: “I'm depressed the Giants lost.” Or: “It's depressing it's raining.”
Or, more seriously: “He's depressed his wife left him.”
But at its worst, at its most profound, depression is crushing. A weight that can only barely be borne. I think “depression” should have one meaning, and one meaning only, like death. There is no “death lite” or “almost death.” “Depression” should be reserved for that one black night that never turns into day. I think it's because of the enormous range of meaning of the word that some non-sufferers don't see chronic depression as that dire. (“You're depressed? You'll get over it.”) It is dire. This dismissiveness is what often makes depressed people ashamed to speak of it. Once again, that great, oily manipulator—shame.
People have tried through the years to describe what it's like to be profoundly depressed. Most famously, William Styron in Darkness Visible. It's a small book full of despair, and he writes truthfully when he says, “the pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne.” Styron also writes about the word “depression” being unsatisfactory for what the malady brings to the soul.
But as with all fine writing, there is a kind of paradox to it. Styron's writing is so fluid, so able, so lucid that, somewhere, I'm thinking: this is too beautiful, too lyrical, to represent that utter bleakness that is depression.
I think if I were to try to capture what it's like to be profoundly depressed—and I declare that I cannot—I might write about it monosyllabically, or as close to that as I could get.
Weight. Dark. Hopeless. Tears. Gone.
I was profoundly depressed in my forties. My willpower vanished. All sense of gratifying routine was gone. Responsibility meant nothing. Everything in myself I relied on deserted me. Nothing could penetrate this darkness. It was an emotional black hole where all light was sucked into itself. Movement was impossible. Suicide seemed reasonable. Even desirable.
You have to think: for someone who loves life so much, what could turn them so against it?
Something you don't stand a chance against.
Use the word judiciously. But if you are depressed, profoundly depressed, speak it. Let yourself be heard. And if someone tells you they're deeply depressed, listen to them. For me, at least, it was only through the help of others, and of one woman in particular I confided in, that I emerged, finally, into daylight. For a good while, at least.
But, like the ocean, I respect depression's might and ability to drown.