I’ve been sorta ‘collecting’ narratives of depression – whenever I see as book referred to, usually on the internet, I hunt it down. The first one was I had a Black Dog, by Matthew Johnstone, which had a series of clever pictures of how the black dog affected his life, with the dog following him around, getting in the way, etc. It was pretty clever.
But what I’m looking for in these books is someone who can wrap words around an experience that I’ve found impossible to describe. It’s words that I’m after, so the pictures, while cool, weren’t fully satisfying. The latest book I’ve found is Darkness Visible: a memoir of madness, by William Styron, and here I’ve found, not the description that I’m after, but at least an agreement that it is an undescribable experience:
Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self – to the mediating intellect – as to verge close to being beyond description. It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it in its extreme mode (pg 7)
He touches here on the reason behind my search for words to describe the experience of depression. One of the hardest things has been that no-one else in my life has been able to comprehend the pain, the helplessness, the vulnerability that I was experiencing. I want to find words that can explain it, so that they can understand how difficult it is to pull yourself, slowly, painfully, out of the trap of your own mind; how much energy goes into fighting the depression, fighting your own mind, leaving very little for everything else, from getting out of bed to caring about the people around you. But I’m beginning to suspect that it’s something that the healthy mind is incapable of comprehending. Even I, now that I’m most-of-the-way better, am having trouble remembering what it was like. Which is certainly a good thing, but isn’t helping my attempts to put the experience into words, so that other people in my situation can explain to the people around them.