Cultivating a Good Depression

Cultivating a Good Depression January 29, 2011

I like to cultivate a good depression.

Well, I suppose “like” is a poor choice of words when discussing uncontrolled despondency. Perhaps it’s better to say that apparently I tend to cultivate a depression — or perhaps my depression is something that induces me to cultivate it.

In any case, when depression comes on — and the difference between depression and just feeling bummed is quite palpable to me these days — it isn’t enough just to feel bad. I need to sit in it, to wriggle around until I’ve found a cozy spot. I savor my melancholy to experience all of its emotional nuance, its flavors. I sample varying degrees of moroseness and experiment with different combinations of ingredients; add a touch of anxiety, a hint of anger, a dash of humiliation, or a good pang of regret. What varieties of despair can I concoct?

I also test these various combinations on my physiology; if I have a particular kind of depression swimming through my system (for example, three parts sadness, two parts fear, one part boredom), what does it do to the feeling in my stomach? Does it produce a sickly simmering sensation, or will it add an acidic burn to the lining? Check in with my lungs, and see how deep or shallow, rushed or sedate, easy or labored is my breathing. My head might feel heavy, as though balancing a thick goo in my skull, or it might feel dense, overly packed, the molecules shoved together creating an almost inaudible hum of pressure. My limbs and overall musculature may give in to the depression, becoming flaccid and weighty, or they may find new levels of tension, the fibers of the tissue twisting in on one another, reaching a feeling of imminent implosion. There are so many possibilities.

And for whatever reason, I seem inclined to explore them all. Simply assuming a gloomy attitude won’t do. For my depression, I need to feel every aspect of the woe, and invent new misery cocktails once my senses have been fully saturated by the latest offering.

One could say that it is making the best of a bad situation. No one wants just one brand and flavor of ice cream all the time, or only one varietal of wine from a single vineyard. For something I experience so often for such considerable stretches of time, I demand nuance, diversity, dynamics.

Actually, I don’t demand it. It happens that way without my even trying.

[Note: I wrote this as a kind of writing experiment a year and a half ago, recently rediscovered it, and thought I’d post it here, not knowing what else to do with it.]

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