Survival is so hardwired into the earliest synapses of life that it is very normal, even healthy, to find suicide disturbing. The problem with disturbing things is that, by their very nature, we prefer not to examine them. This gives disturbing things an extraordinary power to persist in the shadows, surviving through generations, affecting vast swathes of the population in silence.
Most of the people who knew me when I was depressed did not detect a major difference in external behavior. This was partially due to the massive amount of time and planning I took to minimize depressed behavior while in public, but it is also due to the uncomfortable truth that the psychological distance between a healthy and a depressed mind is much shorter than most realize or admit.
The most insidious aspect of depression is this:
depression feels more like a solution than a problem.
If you break your legs, you are unlikely to see broken-leg-you as your “true” self, and will likely do everything in your power to expedite your recovery.
When you break your mind, their is an overwhelming sense that you are “seeing the truth.” That it is reality, not you, that is fundamentally broken, and those who seem happy exist only in some pathetic delusion.
There is also a cultural tendency to mythologize the depressed, with no end of historical artists and geniuses to reinforce this idea.
If I had to hypothesis why this correlation exists between depression and artistry, it would be similar to the blind-improved hearing hypothesis. That is, a blind person will often have improved hearing, not because the lose of vision improves the ability to hear, but because the person will naturally focus and be more in tune with the sense they can rely on. So then, when the cognitive, social, and emotional management section of this mind is impaired, the artistic and instinctual sections are forced to take a front seat.
The problem with viewing depression as something artistic, or normal, or honest, is that many people will allow themselves to remain depressed, keeping it a part of them like some sort of character trait.
At least, that’s what I did.
(finale next Tuesday)