I recently saw the conversation from June '18 about men talking about depression and suicide in the wake of the death of Anthony Boudrain. I thought this was a fascinating and very important topic, and it chimed with me internally, because recently I’ve been struggling with a more minor depression, and wondering exactly what it means and how to manage it. The quick story is that my partner and I are separating, after three years together. I’ve been feeling sad and heartsick about that - we were each other’s main emotional support for three years- but also because I’m not sure what my relationship with her (my?) two sons will be, and I don’t know how she is framing the separation to the boys (I asked her about this, but she essentially said it wasn’t my business). I met both boys when they were four years old, and have helped raise them until today (they are seven); their biological father was a sperm donor, so I’ve been their Dad over these last three years, though this process of becoming Dadified happened slowly, over time. But I’m just feeling sad/down/heartsick mostly because I want to remain a presence in their lives, though I don’t know if my former partner will be in favor of this. (My partner is, among many other things, an observant modern Orthodox Jew, and over time I found I did not fit in with this lifestyle choice and the values it represented - this is a long story, and cannot really be summed up cursorily in a sentence. )
I guess it feels good to share this - I’m sort of reticent to discuss this too much with people I work with, for whatever reason, though I’ve told some people who I’m closer to, but it’s a rotten feeling to walk around with this loss/grief and not have much of an outlet for it, i.e. too many people to talk to, virtual or otherwise. I do not really think we are ultimately separate or alone, so favor dialogue and respectful disclosing over secretiveness and uncommunicativeness. I’m not really looking, I should say, for advice in posting this, but rather just interested in hearing how other people think about, experience, process depression. I"ve been in therapy in the past, but am not exactly looking to start again. I am seeing a couples counselor with my former partner, if not to get back together then at least for some closure, as well as (I’m hoping) some constructive talk about the boys. I keep thinking of that famous/notorious line in Eliot, “April is the cruelest month” - nothing related to April, but rather that feeling of being on the outside looking in, i.e. the world is in summer bloom, but the depression is a sort of blurry lens through which I see it a bit more fuzzily, less clearly.
So here’s the thing: how is one supposed to manage, or "deal with, " or even think about one’s depression, in a non-transactional, honest, embodied, hopefully (at least over time) helpful way? Sometimes I tell myself I should accept it (somehow), at least move towards acceptance, and live with it, and that over time I will heal. (I feel that I would be much happier if I knew I could have a relationship with the boys.) Other times I feel a resistance to the feeling of despair and sadness in my gut, as if there is something not “spiritual” about it, as if I am far away from God or Spirit or whatever. I guess I tend to think the first “strategy,” orientation, approach, is better than the latter, which strikes me as a mindfuck of sorts (the technical term). But there are really palpable differences when one does feel depressed - I definitely become a less good listener, and also more preoccupied with how I am feeling, so that I miss more what others are saying. There is also a slight “anhedonia,” i.e. the things that usually give me pleasure are not as pleasurable, whether that be at my job, or reading, or writing, or whatever else. Depression affects how I see myself, others and the world - there is a tendency to feel more cynical, or bitter, or constricted in a way, all of which I find ridiculous in many ways, but which still operates at some level, influencing my worldview.
I"ve heard people say depression is anger directed towards one’s self; I’m sure there is some truth to that. I’ve also always believed with Mr. Dylan that “they say the darkest hour is right before the dawn,” and that things like depression do have a purpose, and are a sort of an intelligence in a way. I listened to a wonderful audiobook some months back, by Marianne Williamson, called “Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment” which I loved, and that book viewed depression as something that we can learn from, and something that is spiritual, though not in the sense mentioned above, as being separate from God or Spirit or what have you, which I think is a misunderstanding, i.e. mindfuck. (MW has had bouts of serious and clinical depression, and the book is in many ways her coming to terms, in a way I found very profound, with the meaning of those experiences.)
So, if people do have thoughts about this, how should one, does one, can one think about, “deal with” (non-transactionally) depression - major, minor, fleeting, more permanent? (This is probably drawing upon responses from the Bourdain thread, but I think that’s okay.) What do you think depression means? (Does it mean anything?) Are there “strategies” for living with depression that you find useful? Approaches? Modes of thinking about it? Do we just say “this too shall pass” and adopt a sort of patient stoicism? I’d love to hear from anyone about this.