In my favourite film, a planet called Melancholia is about to collide with earth. Like depression, it arrives silently, almost exquisitely. At first, the only indication that a strike is imminent is the thinning of the atmosphere. Melancholia steals the earth’s air, and fighting against the shortage is what makes it feel intolerable.
“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.” T.S. Elliot
Depression doesn’t arrive with a bang, but a whimper, one millimetre at a time. You only notice its presence has become catastrophic when it’s about to collide with and obliterate your reality. One moment, you’re eating one less meal daily. The next, everything tastes like charcoal. One minute, colours are only a shade dimmer. The next, the entire world is bathed in chalk. Depression coats everything in thick grey dust.
That greyscale world is comforting enough to tempt you to stay. It’s not the monotony of the experience that kills you. It’s the fact that moving through life feels like moving through mud. Every enth of your existence seems to resist you, to push against you. Climbing out of bed is exhausting. The idea of spending time with people is terrifying. Every goal you used to have becomes mired in a form of complacency rooted in an utter disbelief in your own abilities.
Who, in that scenario, would want to keep living?
The difference between my planet, Melancholia, and depression is that the former is an entity made up of atoms and atmosphere. Depression is nothing more than a malicious liar. It makes you believe that life, with all its Technicolor lights and magic, is gone. It recreates a reality so convincing that you believe the illusion utterly. You really are that unlovable. There really is no joy to be found here. You really are this alone.
It’s all a lie.
Epilepsy teaches you how powerful the brain is. It shows you that a network of neurons mars every experience you have. It proves how convincing illusions can be. If I could bottle anything for those with a depressed loved one, it would be the understanding that depression feels as real as that planet, as catastrophic and as terrifying.
If I could bottle anything for depression patients, it would be five minutes of my current reality; five lousy minutes to experience the truth of my life after depression to show you how spectacularly rich it became after I survived suicide.
The charcoal washes away. It does. And once it has, the life that grows out of the ashes is more magical than anything you’ve seen before.