Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Change and decay in all around I see

Death is a fact of life. As Philip Larkin said: 'Most things may never happen: this one will.' Death unfortunately is unavoidable: we all die (sometime) and so do all our friends and family. It's not a very happy state of affairs - but such is life.

Most people, in the face of death, just try to get on with their lives. In fact, in some ways the prospect of death can actually enhance life. If we are going to die, then we might as well live now. We need to experience, to love and to be happy (if possible). In fact, the Romans used to have a skull at their feasts to remind themselves that life was short and should be enjoyed wherever possible.

Prior to being depressed I was, like most people, aware of my own mortality - but I didn't feel it breathing down my neck. To misquote Beckett: 'I didn't have a bone to pick with graveyards'. But depression seemed to open up a new relationship with death. It seemed to bring my slightly muted sense of mortality into sharp focus. What had hitherto not troubled me suddenly troubled me quite a lot. (Ironic for someone with suicidal depression, I know.) Death was suddenly everywhere. It was beneath the skin of every person I passed. Change and decay was all around.

I was wondering whether it is because depression drains all of the joy out of our lives that we are suddenly left with the stark reality of death. Pleasure undoubtedly distracts us from mortality: classically sex - but also food and drink, and then pretty much anything else we enjoy from scuba diving to ball room dancing. So when you strip these away - as happens when you experience anhedonia - you probably can't help noticing the big tombstone at the end of your life. So, yet again, this is another trick that depression plays on you. If you feel that you have woken up as Philip Larkin - don't despair because it may just be your depression which has made you 'death-suited'.

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