Feel Anything

When most people hear the word “depression,” they equate it with sadness. If someone is depressed, the reasoning goes, they must be really sad all the time. The key, then, is to find out how to make the depressed person happy. Easy enough, right?

Well, not always.

Just type the words “I feel dead inside” into your search engine and see how many results come up. A great majority of people who experience depression report not being able to feel any emotion at all as being one of their primary symptoms. They don’t feel happy, but they don’t feel sad either. They aren’t at peace, but they can’t muster much anger about anything. They don’t feel emotional pain. They become numb to emotions.

People often wonder at the number of those among the depressed who also have various addictions. The practice of cuttingcutting is rarely understood. Researchers have often pointed out links between depression and high-risk behaviors. All of this would seem to run counter-productive to a depressive ever getting any better, since all of these behaviors usually result in making the sufferer feel guilty or ashamed and can even result in physical harm.

The obvious question, then, is, why?

There’s a line in the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” has a line in it I always found very poignant: “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel.” Sometimes the action is not intended to accomplish anything except producing a feeling of some sort. Any feeling, whether it’s pain or pleasure or a high of some kind or even some type of near-death experience. Someone with depression may make a decision that can only be described as stupid simply to experience a jolt in their emotions.

Of course, depression cannot be cited as a reason for every not-so-good decision in life. Every day, though, someone wakes up feeling absolutely numb to the world around them. Nothing brings them enjoyment. Nothing makes them grieve. Nothing makes them laugh. Nothing makes them cry. They desperately need something, but they don’t know what it is, so they fling themselves at anything they think might make them care again.

So for everyone who believes the key to conquering depression is to just figure out how to make everyone happy is missing the point. The solution is to make people excited to be alive again. To give them a purpose for getting out of bed every day. To replace whatever harmful behavior they are using to cope with something beneficial to them.

Sometimes it’s not just a matter of “taking a happy pill” and “turning that frown upside-down.” It’s about becoming a person again. There is no equation for that, and the journey will look different for everyone. Judgement will have to be replaced with mercy and understanding, because they are going to get it wrong along the way. The trick, though, won’t be to just keep going. It will be to just keep feeling.

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Tuneful Tuesday: Depths Of Guilt

Before I decided to moan about my whacked-out sleep schedule yesterday, I had intended to write a series of posts this week about guilt and how it basically eats away at the psyches of those who suffer from depression. Of course, I obviously didn’t do that, so now I feel a bit guilty about knocking myself off track. Mission accomplished.

I can’t think of many songs the delve as deeply into the pits of guilt than “Hurt,” the devastating lament written by Trent Reznor about … well, what exactly is this song about anyway? I mean, it has some pretty obvious references to heroin addiction and self-harm. Beyond that, though, what exactly is it saying? Is it about someone apologizing? Is it about someone giving up? Is it about someone holding on?

Whatever the correct interpretation is (and, really, most truly great songs don’t have one correct interpretation anyway), the person the song features is definitely experiencing some heavy-duty guilt. “I will let you down/I will make you hurt”? Here’s someone who obviously feels as if they’ve inflicted some damage. And maybe they have. So it could be argued that the song is an exercise in self-awareness: I’ve done some bad stuff, and I know it.

Whether it’s the Johnny Cash version of the Nine Inch Nails version (Personally, I prefer the Cash rendition, and not just because it says “crown of thorns” instead of “crown of …”, well, not thorns.), there’s a distinct heaviness in what’s being sung. The temptation for me as a listener is to sort of wallow in the place the song is taking me. “Well, they’re right; everyone does go away in the end.”

But there has to be more than that, right?

It’s okay to be self-aware, but it can definitely be taken to extremes. I can realize I’m guilty of something, but I don’t have to let that guilty act define me as a person. Now, the depressive part of my brain can’t believe I just typed that last sentence. Guilt involves bad stuff, right? Therefore, if I’m guilty, I must be bad.

Hmm, apparently that sleepiness I referred to yesterday hasn’t completely dissipated, as I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say at this point. So here’s a video. Goodnight.