Sunday, 13 July 2014


Pretty much every time I see an interview program on the documentary channel, I am forcefully reminded of what seemed like a passing thought I had once, or daydream, of participating in such a program about sufferers of clinical depression. It's actually a pretty scary idea, but I'm reminded of it with a sort of moral urgency, like it's something I really ought to do, one way or another.

I suppose it functions, like every single bloody other thing in my life, as a metaphor for how I conduct myself towards the social world. Clinical depression is a serious illness, and it's important people are aware of it and are tolerant and intelligent towards its sufferers so as not to make it worse, which they easily could, but I've never actually been seriously ill. I've only ever really been seriously weak.

It's a sort of spectrum, which I can never really wrap my head completely around. What people refer to alternately as disinclination to pull yourself together or mental disease includes both an actual illness and what is just a personality type. Maybe a personality type more susceptible to this illness, but I suspect that mostly because of societal intolerance towards it. This personality type, or attribute, I think, is an emotional weakness, the equivalent of being born smaller and physically weaker than average, only invisible.

Only that's probably sort of like defining homosexuality as an inability to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. It may be technically accurate, but it accepts a bunch of arbitrary norms as worthy of deference. Homosexuality is, and especially was, essentially rebellious, subversive, and it's accepted as opposed to just tolerated today not just because we've become more open-minded, but because we've changed our minds about what sex means and what obligations we have in its context. One day we will do the same about emotions.

"Pulling yourself together" isn't just, or possibly at all, an impossibility for me - it also strikes me as incredibly dumb. Or unjustified, at least. I'm also depressed because I won't be repressed. I'm overwhelmed because my emotional reactions impress me and I take them more seriously than my responsibilities as an unattached grown-up. Even if I could pretend to process things the way people around me ostensibly do and we're all expected to, I don't particularly want to. I don't really see the point of such a life, which is where it starts to touch on the disease again.

Homosexuality used to be perceived as, which is to say to constitute, a moral weakness and a personal deficiency. To be a "practicing" homosexual, whether out of the closet or in, meant making your peace with your inferiority, and preferring a sex life to good citizenship. A practicing emotional subversive would prefer an emotional life to seeming respectable. But I still feel closeted.

It's sometimes difficult to tell what characterises just me and what's universal, but it seems to me that the most basic and pervasive human emotion is sadness. Joy comes along every once in a while when something good happens, but there's nothing close to symmetry between the two, and I have felt myself satisfied or happy at the same time as being sad. Sadness is just a reaction to being alive in a confusing and frustrating world.

Sadness means everything's a little too big at the moment, a little too heavy to carry. That you're just one person and the cards appear stacked against you. It means, essentially, that the status-quo is shit. It's not quite the anger that might lead you to try and change it, but it's close.

Grown-ups don't get sad, generally. They get heartbroken, when something's serious enough, or angry or stressed out, but sadness isn't even for pussies, it's for children. It's an admission that you're not grown-up enough to have everything under control, and what you'd really like to do is sit down on the floor and cry. Even if you don't go as far as doing it, you're implying it by giving too direct an indication of sadness. You're saying "This is a heavy load."

I do feel that I get sadder quicker, and deeper, than I'm supposed to. I'm not always so good at recognising it when it happens (though I think I'm getting better!). Generally speaking, nothing feels like it's worth anything before it incorporates sadness within it. All the people being strong and normal enough to be proper adults don't intimidate me so much once I'm into my sad groove. I'm alive and they're dead.

It's an emotional emancipation. If I can allow myself to feel that I'm only a man and what I'm up against is fundamentally too much, at least I have a chance to be free. At least people's friendship can mean something.

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