I saw this on a tumblr post recently:
“Depression is humiliating. It turns intelligent, kind people into zombies who can’t wash a dish or change their socks. It affects the ability to think clearly, to feel anything, to ascribe value to your children, your lifelong passions, your relative good fortune. … You alienate your friends because you can’t comport yourself socially, you risk your job because you can’t concentrate, you live in moderate squalor because you have no energy to stand up, let alone take out the garbage. You become pathetic and you know it. And you have no capacity to stop the downward plunge…” (complete post here.)
I mostly can’t relate to this post at this point in my life, but I have in the past, and I do find honesty in the words. (This is also a relatable take on depression.) I could probably be diagnosed as depressed, although it’s been years since I last went to a therapist, and I’m highly skeptical of psychiatric practices and the pharmaceutical industry. I can tell when I’m being manipulated, and I’m resistant to it in a way that most people must not be.
I do take depression screening tests regularly, though—morbid curiosity—and I usually fall somewhere in the category of mild depression, even on good days. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about philosophy and my place in the profession/discipline. The two are not unrelated. Of course, this isn’t true of all people who do work in philosophy, but it is true of me. And Foucault. And John Stuart Mill. And William James. And Nietzsche. (And Boris Yeltzin, oddly.)
Depression screening tests always trip me up on this question: “Do you think your future is hopeless?”
Well, of course I find my future to be hopeless. I find everybody’s future to be hopeless. I’m a tiny little piece of matter in a vast and indifferent universe, and someday I’m going to die. And you can give me all the platitudes you’d like about carving our your place, sharing your life with people who care about you, doing what you can with the time you’ve got, but I don’t work that way.
There’s a reason why most people don’t process their thoughts the way I do. Most people don’t think about the big picture, and that’s the first place I go. The big picture is not a happy one, but it’s not a sad one either. It’s indifferent. And that’s okay.
Depression screening tests also trip me up on this question: “Have you lost interest in aspects of your life that used to be important to you?”
Of course I’ve lost interest in aspects of my life that I used to think were important, because they weren’t important. I was led to believe they were important, but once I put some thought into it, I realized they weren’t. And the society that people have created isn’t really one I want to participate in for the most part.
I don’t understand how people can selectively care about things. Not only am I a big picture thinker, I’m a complete gray area thinker. I’m not anchored to any particular set of beliefs, unless contingency counts—and contingency isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can cling to. It could all be otherwise, so why is anything more important than anything else? Why should I care about making more money? Why should I care about making art? Why should I try?
We’ll all float on anyway.
The obvious response to me is that you feel more strongly about certain things than others, which is fine. I just don’t have strong emotional responses to things or to most people. Most of the time, I have to work to understand other people’s emotional reactions. I have a tendency to intellectualize everything instead, and then find a set of reasons to explain it.
Apparently this makes me come across as misanthropic and unempathetic, neither of which I am, but I can understand why it might seem that way. And that’s okay too.
Alienation used to be akin to madness, and in certain ways, I suppose it still is.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a constant jumble of thoughts in my head futilely attempting to figure out everything in the universe. Sometimes I wish I could understand the normal drives that people have to find a partner, to start a family, etc. Sometimes I even wish I had just given in and stayed in engineering, or advertising, or law.
Sometimes I’m pretty sure the only thing that keeps me connected to other people at all is my sense of humor. If you don’t understand my humor, you probably think I’m an awful person, and I may very well be.
Just like not placing a whole lot of value on my own life might mean I’m depressed.
But I just can’t philosophically commit to any other position.
 Title comes from Modest Mouse’s “Float On.”