Essay · Mental Health

Depressive Tempests

“The madness of depression is, generally speaking, the antithesis of violence. It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk.” – William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

It is never so simple to say, “listen here, this is an exact depiction of mental illness,” as is it not simply the case in describing most aspects our lives, our emotions, and our relationships with language. However, we must try to explain the plight of the afflicted mind, especially those of us who possess one. Literary tradition teaches us that symbolism keenly morphs the daily knowledge of our perceivable world into a way of seeing an idea so we may more easily digest it into meaning. Allow me then to jump into a more extreme moment of unsettled desperation, we can call it a moment of extreme depression, by asking you to imagine you are rooted in the middle of a storm from which you are unable to flee or turn your gaze from.

Picture the destruction of a small village by a bellowing tempest. All you once held sacred, cast out by a raging, invisible force. Photographs of pleasant times whip past your eyes. They are faded and devoid of color. Picture the muted horror of the ferocious wind. The coldness drying tears from your eyes before it allows them to fall. You are planted in one spot, unable to process anything save for that you are witness to the pandemonium unraveling your once-preserved peace of mind. Watch the mayhem of Nature’s relentless breath. Taste the dust blown into your mouth, choking you despite rabid attempts to swallow it away. See the debris flicker in cyclonic technicolor. Blink away your disbelief, for though you are wont to rely on your control over sound senses, what you are witness to here is a force capable of mythic destruction. It is the hinderance of the unsettled mind, the unhinging that will lead to a legion of voiceless screams. No distress signal lit. Left unfiltered, perception puddles and time thaws into the slush that waits between street and sidewalk to cling to your pant cuff until the uncomfortable day’s end.

If there is a day you wake up and you believe this is the day you will silence the storm once and for all, you are tinkering with a furtive notion more dangerous than the storm itself. The storm does not go away. You do not make it go away. The more you entertain the notion that there will be a day you will master its fury, the more likely you will become victim of its hellish wrath. What do you do? You learn to look above, beyond, around it. You make it a point to survive those darker of skies. You accept theories of time and perception and being so that they do not invade your consciousness and you drown in a broth of existential petrification. There is no need to hide inside, you can get close to the wind’s turmoil, for you are meant to know this experience. I have certainly not learned much about how to navigate these storms of life, but I do know this. When I let those close to me know the skies are darkening, keep an eye on the weather patterns, and dress accordingly, I am made fearless against their wrath.

Epigraph: Styron, William. Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. New York, Vintage Books: 1990. Print.

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