August 13, 2019:
Where even the reading rebounded: amplifying and focusing the darkness I was experiencing.
Like probably the majority of American teenagers of that era my first exposure to mood disorder in literature was The Catcher in the Rye. Where so many of my high school peers loved Salinger, I found his world perplexing and off-putting. He seemed to suggest that Satori belongs to a certain class of Ivy League intellectuals with the leisure and the wherewithal to pursue it, where the result is less enlightenment than spiritual snobbery. He romanticized mental illness, equating breakdown with illumination, so that with part of my struggling brain I thought perhaps my struggle was to understand God, and might therefore lead to something positive. My ambition to become a writer was coming into focus, and what I learned from Salinger was, I'm supposed to feel this way, because this is how writers feel.
Holden Caulfield led to Franny and Zooey who led to Seymour's door with its once snow-white beaverboard lettered with epigrams. Which led to Seymour, which led to a certain slip of the pen, which opened a different door, the definitive literary entrance onto Depression Central: Søren Kierkegaard. Who became, for me at seventeen, the Romantic avatar of despair.
Among philosophers, Søren Kierkegaard is depression’s poster boy. Free of Hegel's commitment to resisting despair, Kierkegaard followed every truth to its illogical final point, striving to eschew compromise. He took curious comfort from his pain because he believed in its honesty and reality. 'My sorrow is my castle,' he wrote. 'In my great melancholy, I loved life, for I loved my melancholy.' It is as though Kierkegaard believed that happiness would enfeeble him.
— Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression (p. 316). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
I loved Kierkegaard's epigrams: the concision with which he was able to express profound sorrows. He wrote, "I feel the way a chessman must, when the opponent says of it: this piece cannot be moved." To this day I find that an extraordinary statement of exactly how I feel when depression renders me hopeless. So I concluded that things were exactly as they should be.
This matters, because we adapt to the ideologies that surround us. If the concept of depression as treatable neurochemical disruption is available to you, you'll be more likely to seek help than if depression is understood as weakness, or malingering, or a literary affectation. So I sank and, instead of fighting, I embraced.