There’s a YouTube video that shows a brown mass of algae swaying underwater.[i]The water a glowing blue, the sand white like ground chalk. The algae itself looks like a fungal monolith: the main stalk curves and drifts, small mushroom caps float out from its core. The camera moves closer and the algae changes. A part of the algae seems to grow a pale white tumor, the green and brown bloom into a smooth skin. Then a frog-like eye opens. The camera has accidently found a camouflaged octopus; its texture and color so convincing that the octopus was impossible to differentiate from the algae. It squirts ink and darts away. The video goes on to show the process in reverse and still, knowing a part of the algae is the octopus, it is impossible to tell the difference between the two.
Depression disguises itself in a similar manner. It’s only in its more dramatic moments–the classic attributes of emotional paralysis, a painful and persistent numbness that comes off as “moody brooding” (to steal from Joyce)[ii]–that the disease becomes more recognizable. However, even when it isn’t so dramatic it lives in its prey–just in more subtle manners.
It’s often helpful to think of depression as some kind of Other that coexists with us: whether it’s Black Dog, the shadow self, Darkseid’s Anti-Life equation, but when depression calms down there are still traces of its existence. These can be haunted memories, subtle habits, or emotional outlooks. Depression is by and large more mundane than dramatic. It’s this mundanity I hope to explore. While the poles of depression are commonly talked about (as they should be) I’d like to look into its quirks. I want to uncover, point out, learn about the way depression might subtly change someone. I want to look at as John Ashbery put it in his poem Soonest Mended the “hazards of the course.”[iii] To torture his golf metaphor some-more, I want to look at the bumps, divots, and rocks that are only hazards because they’re found on the diseased course. This will hopefully take us from the checkout line in a grocery store to the lamentations of Hamlet to the value eye contact to the fantastical world of superhero comics and anywhere else. You’ll find most of what I draw upon is my own experience. This is intentional. While there are certain universals to depression they tend to be those same dramatic moments I’m less interested in. This doesn’t mean I’ll spend every post staring in the mirror and talking about how different and weird I am. Rather, it will give me a base to explore from. I’d like to untangle my own octopus before I attempt to detach anyone else’s.
I want to thank you for taking the time to visit this site and read my writing. I am grateful for every moment you spend reading.
[ii] In Joyce’s Ulysses Stephen Daedalus is told by his obnoxious friend Mulligan to stop mourning the death of his mother.