Depression and Self-Discovery

By Stu Whitley | Bio

what is to be done about depression? Much the same, I think, as
rediscovering the rational self in a time when emotions hold sway. Not
an easy task, but it’s done all the time. One disciplines oneself to
think. The brain is exercised through reading, or better yet, writing.
Journaling is a powerful tool to self-discovery, and one doesn’t need
to be a Joseph Conrad to diarize one’s thoughts. What better way to
explore the inner self—the ossuary of our life’s experiences, events,
images, biases and tribal assumptions—than to set them down on paper as
influences for our present course?

It truly is surprising what
actually lies within the sediment of our motivations (provided we don’t
set out to fool ourselves): a fear of a past mistake repeating itself,
the contour of a face we once loved and lost, the quiet authority of a
parent, the indifference of a friend. Reading (almost anything) can
trigger the imagination, but writing impels restraint and makes blame
look ridiculous. A wise intellectual, Albert Camus wrote, is someone
whose mind watches itself.

Our lives have a completely public character. This is so, as Josef Pieper so aptly stated in The Four Cardinal Virtues
(1965),  “…because the individual is adequately defined only through
his membership in the social whole, which is the only reality”. One
must belong, love and be loved, participate in a social environment, to
be realized as a human being.

The way out of depression will
often mean putting one’s hand in the hand of another. It may be that a
sexual relationship will be the blaze that will quench the lesser burn.
It is no accident that depression is high among those who are alone.
Sometimes it’s necessary to rediscover (or discover) loyalties, those
attachments we have for certain individuals that in some instances have
never been properly pursued. We know that there are people in even the
most misanthropic lives who assist us in carrying out our purpose. The
highest level of loyalty is, of course, love. But love cannot thrive
unilaterally. It’s been said that love is the crocodile that lurks in
the river of passion. I wonder at the metaphor: it’s demonstrably true
that unrequited love, or love that has withered from its full bloom
(often for reasons we cannot quite comprehend) can contribute to
depression. There cannot be anything more unfair than to love, yet to
be unloved in return, for at minimum it is upon congenial loyalties
that our survival depends. Abandonment of love is the crocodile.

we must share our story. “We are a narrative species. We exist by
storytelling—by relating our situations—and the test of our evolution
may lie in getting the story right.” The author of these words (R.
Rosenblatt in the article ‘I Am Writing Blindly’ in the November 6th
2000 issue of Time magazine) was contemplating the dying
message of Lieutenant Captain Dimitri Kolesnikov, written to his wife
from the ruined hulk of the Russian submarine Kursk. The best way to
regain some semblance of perspective is to relate events that can then
be placed in a broader context that assists us to live with it, to make
sense of it, to make its place in our lives a cohesive part of our
life’s as yet unfinished narrative. It becomes part of our ‘truth’, and
not simply some inexplicable contradiction that triggers no other
response than despair.