Melancholia: Nightmares, Colors, and the Failures of Wealth

In Lars Von Trier’s film Melancholia, a rogue planet (named “Melancholia”) suddenly appears from behind the sun and hurtles through space on a collision course with planet Earth. I’ve written about the film’s connections with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche in another post, but here I just want to discuss some random things about the movie that struck me as I was watching it.

My Own Nightmare

Since my teens, I have had recurring nightmares wherein I am walking down a random street in a random, peaceful neighborhood, and when I look up into the sky, I see a horrifying and vivid scene: another large celestial body, usually another planet, ripping open the blue sky of our atmosphere as it rams into our planet. In these dreams I am filled with existential dread, and the planet is usually violently aflame. These dreams took on increased regularity during my loss of faith in god in my late teens, and, later, during episodes of anxiety that I struggled with in my early and mid twenties. The high definition visual details of these dreams are perhaps the most disturbing aspects of them; I see it all so clearly…

Melancholia is the only movie I have ever seen which visually depicts these nightmares of mine almost perfectly (in my dreams, however, the planet is never the calm, serene blue that it is in the film).

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Justine’s Eyes and Hair

In a particularly beautiful scene, Justine and Claire walk out onto the terrace at night to see the incoming rogue planet Melancholia at such a distance that it appears to be the same size as the moon, which is full and beaming in the sky along with Melancholia. The moon shines a beautiful, ghostly white, and Melancholia shines a deep and penetrating blue. The bodies of the sisters are therefore lit up with these colors as they stare, entranced, into the sky.

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It might just be a coincidence, but I did notice that the main character, Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, has bright blue eyes and bright white hair. This reflects the color scheme of the night sky. What does this mean? That Justine’s eyes reflects the hypnotizing blue of Melancholia, symbolizes her own melancholy depression?  Does it signify her acceptance of the situation? Or, perhaps, its merely coincidental and just happens to add to the aesthic beauty of the film. It is worth noting that towards the end of hte film, Justine claims to be able to “see things” and tells her sister confidently that Earth is the only planet in the universe with life on it. When asked by Claire how she could possibly know this, she responds with something to the effect of “I just know things”. So do her bright blue eyes reflect that deeper, intuitive ability? I don’t know…

However, as I argued in my previous blog essay, this film is influenced heavily by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. One of Nietzsche’s famous quotes was:

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

Perhaps this could give insight into the meaning of Justine’s bright blue eyes…

As she stares into Melancholia, Melancholia stares back into her.

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Wealth Can’t Save You

The entire movie takes place at a huge mansion which sits on an 18 hole golf course, totally detached and isolated from the rest of society. In fact, Von Trier has exactly zero scenes where he depicts the outside world; the entire film is confined to the estate. It seems counter-intuitive that a film about the end of the world would not dedicate *any time at all* to exploring the societal reaction of such doomsday news. But by confining the film to one isolated estate, and a small handful of characters, Von Trier creates an intimacy, a specificity, and a psychology that the film would otherwise lack if he had decided to “zoom out” and examine civilization as a whole. That would have cheapened the movie, in my opinion.

It is also worth noting (and maybe this is the Marxist in me) that there seems to be a point being made about wealth and its ultimate futility in shielding the very rich from the events of the rest of the world. In one scene, Claire’s husband John brings in a truck load of supplies that can be used to get by in case of any power outages as Melancholia flies-by (John is convinced that science has proven the planet will not collide with Earth, but merely pass by our planet safely, giving us nothing more than a wonderful spectacle as it continues its path into the outer solar system). He is leveraging his wealth to ensure him and his family will be taken care of in an otherwise destabilizing situation. In the real world, with our currently absurd levels of wealth inequality, this seems to be true of rich people generally: they view their wealth as a safeguard against the rest of us. Events that effect us all, like climate change or social unrest, can be kept at bay for the ultra-wealthy, because they can retreat into the sheltered comfort of their isolated estates, or even more radically, as some rich people are already doing, building huge underground bunkers to protect themselves from any sort of social unrest.

(source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/super-rich-doomsday-shelter_n_1417895.html)

Ultimately, this sense of security is an illusion. Rich people are still inexorably tied to the rest of the world, and their wealth can only protect them from chaos for so long. In the film, it can’t protect them at all. The King and The Servant share exactly the same fate… The hyper-wealthy elites in our world would do well to remember that.

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Overall, this film is rife with symbolism, heart-wrenching depictions of mental and emotional un-wellness, philosophical themes, and scenes of truly moving beauty…

Go watch it.

 

 

 

 

The Embrace Of Sadness And The Deepening Of The Self

At the core of my being is a profound sadness. I would say that my predominant life-emotion is sadness; melancholy representing it in its most beautiful and poetic form, and clinical depression (from which I suffer intermittently) representing it in its most explicitly bleak form.

I’m not sad person in the sense that I’m outwardly and obviously sad all the time, but it’s always just below the surface; bubbling. My eyes well up with tears on a near daily basis, and have my entire adult life. Anything can provoke it, from a random lyric in a song, to a news story, to mere moments of silence. I view life as fundamentally tragic. And it is.

Our lives are fleeting, fragile, largely meaningless, and marked by violent injustice and personal loss. In our personal lives, we are forced to watch as everyone we love grows old, gets sick, and eventually dies. The older we get, the more funerals we attend. Life is a waiting room where, one by one, we watch everyone we care about march into their graves while we wait for our turn; a macabre conveyer belt of death. Zooming out and looking at civilization as a whole, we realize that we live in a society which elevates the shallowest aspects of our nature to the level of what we blindly call “culture”: from endless, vacuous consumerism, to soul-crushing and time-stealing wage labor, to the obsessive and ubiquitous focus on hyper-individualism, selfishness, and competition, which destroys any semblance of community and leaves us feeling isolated, alienated, and perpetually dissatisfied. Add to that the constant barrage of natural disasters, mass shootings, war, and disease, and life, both personally and generally, is often overwhelming in its wretchedness.

To open your eyes to the world is to open them up to abysses of despair and mountains of triviality.

For sensitive, intellectual people our world is a monstrosity, punctuated only far too rarely by brief moments of elation and happiness. Moments which fade quickly, and serve only to remind of us of their oppressive infrequency.

My personal transition from adolescence to adulthood was defined by a long period of clinical depression. The naiveté and sense of joy that had marked my childhood crumbled into dust when I first had to get a shitty job and I realized that this was what the rest of my life, and all of our lives, consisted of: going to work, coming home, paying bills, and going back to work. That revelation was so disorienting and dark that I fell into the worst depression of my life, and stayed there until I had to be hospitalized for it. I was admitted into a psych-ward for a week, while a team of psychiatrists and doctors tried to figure out how to treat me. There solution of medication worked long enough for me to get out of the hospital, but soon failed miserably. The sadness I had, while partially neuro-chemical, was fundamentally existential, and there is no treatment for that. When the disease is life itself, what pill could I swallow to make it better? The answer was then as it is now: none.

I do not want to sound hyperbolically bleak. All things considered, I am a very blessed man. I have a nice apartment, two wonderful, healthy kids who I love more than I could put into words, a fiancé, and a great set of family and friends who love me deeply. I am not in desperate poverty. I do not have any serious health problems. And my job, while utterly meaningless and morally unfulfilling, grants me a surplus of downtime in which I can read and write (and get paid for it!).

I do not walk around life with my head down in a state of indefinite emotional despair. In fact, most of my adult life has been a project of learning how to live in the midst of this tragedy. Without recoiling into medication or therapy, I’ve been able to cobble together some basic strategies for living with my head above water, appreciating the small things in life, and keeping my sanity. In my personal life, I’m extremely lighthearted and often humorous. No one who interacts with me on a daily basis would use the term “sad” to describe me. But that is not because I hide it from people, its because, all things considered, I am fairly well-adjusted and have been able to put together an assortment of mechanisms by which I can live. Humor, parenthood, and a handful of hobbies are primary ways that I cope with life.

But the sadness is always there. The darkness is always there.

But accepting this, and even embracing it, has allowed me room to exist. In fact, I would argue that there is beauty, and the promise of growth, in the embrace of one’s own sadness. Sadness, when not violently catapulted into clinical depression, is actually a very gentle, often sublime emotion. When we stop resisting it, or trying to escape it, we can allow it to operate within us and therefore to deepen us.  Sadness, once embraced, can function like a rain that, over time, erodes away the hardness of our internal lives and carves out room for empathy, gentleness, and even love. It can soften us, and through that softening, it can make us better, more connected, more authentic human beings. When we come face to face with the tragedy of our own life, we can see the tragedy in everyone’s life. Our sadness is the sadness of being human, and by extending that realization outward, we foster compassion and love for other human beings. And that, perhaps, is the foundation on which a better world can be built…

Love, Marcus

She really is a wonderful woman. I do not show her the proper appreciation. She works hard to raise our infant son, Soren, while I go out and earn a paycheck.  She also puts up with my assorted mental illnesses, including but not limited to, anxiety, bipolar disorder and manic depression. Entire weeks go by where I am despondent and brooding and impotent. But she is my safety net, even if I can never bring myself to explain just how much I need her and appreciate her.

But it’s another day, and another long drive home during rush hour. I swear this is the worst time of the day for me.  I work in the middle of the city, but live on its edges; making my daily commute to and from work long and unbearable. And since I work the classic 9-5 shift, I am inundated with heavy traffic every time I am in the car.  The smog, the over-population, the honking horns, the panhandlers; it all culminates in a sordid cacophony of sensory irritation and overload.

I do not feel good today, again, but I am determined to make Katherine feel appreciated, so I am stopping by the store on my way home to buy her flowers and write out a card explaining my appreciation. It is always easier to write these things down and hand them over instead of trying to remember what you wanted to say and articulating the message correctly, on the spot. This will take an extra 20 minutes or so, but that is fine, because Katherine thinks I have a meeting after work.  She isn’t expecting me home for a few hours still.  It will be a nice surprise to hand her the flowers and card, take over baby duties (changing diapers, feeding, putting to bed), and let her relax. I figure I could even draw her a bath and make dinner tonight.  I have been so caught up in my latest dreary depressive episode over the past few weeks that I have been exceptionally self-centered.  Mental illness has a way of turning otherwise balanced people into narcissists because we are expending tremendous effort every waking minute of our lives dealing with our own cognitive fall out. The morbid thoughts are circuitous and agonizing. The anxiety is ever-present, and when it does die down, an anxiety concerning its inevitable return keeps the nervous system on edge.  The mood swings are extreme and not connected in any sensible way to external conditions.  All of this piles up and locks us inside ourselves.  Medicines help a little bit, but at the cost of feeling real.  Medication completely levels out the peaks and valleys, and makes me feel like a member of the walking dead. Instead of intense mood swings, I flat line; which in many ways is just as bad, if not uniquely worse.  And when, for want of money for example, I cannot afford the prescription refill, the withdrawals are nightmarish. Therefore, I put myself at the mercy of my disorders and blow, to and fro, in the internal winds of my mind.

But Katherine is innocent, she never signed up for this. When we met I was far more stable, and have only descended into cognitive chaos in recent years. I love her so deeply, and her loyalty to me is profoundly moving; although, again, I have the constant problem of not being able to articulate to her just how much she means to me. She has the stress of a newborn child to deal with as well, and I know I multiply that stress tenfold on a daily basis. Whether it’s on account of a hysterical fit of sadness and anger or a weeks-long despondency where I barely speak to her, let alone show her the affection she deserves.  However, she is my lifeline.  Without her, without my family, I would be nothing and suicide would be inevitable. Even in my darkest moments, I know I can lay my head on her lap and weep, and I know she is taking care of Soren no matter how dysfunctional and disabled I am.  Knowing that I have this nest of a home to collapse into every night truly gives me the only shred of hope and comfort I possess in this world.

So I walk into this beehive of a grocery store to buy her flowers and a card, and my anxiety skyrockets.  I hate people, I hate their meaningless chatter, their shallow desires, and their blindness to what really matters.  But most of all, I hate how they take their mental health for granted.  One of my favorite games to play when I am in a busy public place like this is to try and remember what it was like when I had my mental health.  I try to remember what it was like to be normal; and I end up envying everyone around me. The longer any specific bout of depression or anxiety lasts, the harder it is to remember what it’s like to be healthy. But I garner an odd sort of comfort from trying to remember, and getting stabs of insight into what it’s like to be okay. Lightning flashes of remembrance. It keeps my mind occupied as I pick out the flowers, and buy a cheap card, and stand in this horrific check-out line. My heart is racing, my mind is spinning, and I feel like I might pass out if I have to stand here for another second. But eventually I get to the cashier, put on a brave face, engage in that awkward small talk (“Hello, did you find everything you were looking for?”; “Yes, I did. Thank you.”; “Paper or plastic?”; “Paper, please”; “Okay, here you are. Have a nice night”; “Thank you, you too.”), and finally make it back out to my car, where I scribble the following into the card:

Dear Katherine, I now I am the worst. I am so sorry that I have become what I am. But please know how much I cherish and adore you. Please know that you and Soren mean everything to me, and one day I will be okay again, and we will travel and have guests over for dinner, and go out on the weekends like normal people. In the meantime, I want you to know how much I love you, how much I need you, and how much I appreciate all the work you do to raise our son, and, in a way, to raise me too.  I love you more than I could ever put into words, and I will get better. Just please stick with me.

Love,
Marcus

I put the pen back in my glove box, pull out of my parking space, and head home; happy with myself that I mustered up the emotional fortitude to make the purchase and express my feelings.

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I pull into our driveway, grab the bag with the flowers and the card, and walk inside.  I set my keys down, and hear my son upstairs cooing and gurgling. I walk upstairs, assuming Katherine is with him, turn the corner and walk to our bedroom and open the cracked door all the way.  Katherine is not alone. She is on her back, legs spread out to her sides, and a man that is not me is on top of her, plunging in and out of her body as she moans emphatically. I can only see the man’s hairy back and ass, violently entering my wife; and her face is shielded from mine by his body. The bedding is completely off the bed, leaving only the sheet and one pillow under Katherine’s head.  I notice, between the moist pumps, what I assume to be ejaculate dripping down the crevice of her ass, creeping slowly and viscously over her asshole and then down onto the bed, puddling grotesquely. They have been at it for a while. I glance down at Soren, laying on his back, like his mother, under his playpen, making various infantile sounds; completely unaware of the horror happening all around him.  My wife and the mystery man are so enthralled in the act of betrayal they do not notice me standing there, nauseated and deranged, too stunned to speak or act.

After what feels like 5 minutes, but is probably no more than 30 seconds, I walk out of the room and to the hall closet, reaching up into the top shelf and pulling out the gun that Katherine and I had bought for protection when we purchased our house. I calmly, serenely even, loaded two bullets into the chamber of the gun. I am not even thinking; my mind is Zen quiet. Not a singular linguistic line of dialogue bubbling up into conscious awareness; just dead inward silence. I feel the weight of the firearm in my hand, moving it up and down a couple times in my palm, surprised at how heavy it is.  I cock the gun, flooding the chamber with the first bullet, which makes a satisfying metallic sound. I stalk back into the bedroom, where the nightmare is taking place. I point the gun at the back of the man, and pause for a few seconds, wondering if they will notice me standing there.  They do not. They have no idea what is happening.  I almost feel bad. They are having such a good time, and what I am about to do is going to drag them out of their ecstasy and directly into this nightmare. I press, ever so gently, on the trigger, not enough to fire a shot, but enough to begin that process. Then, with my arm outstretched holding the gun, and without even the slightest tremble in my hand, I drift my aim upwards towards the ceiling and squeeze the trigger, firing a shot into drywall above my head.  A brief snow storm of white debris falls around me.  The man leaps upward, emerging violently out of my wife’s body, and I notice a thin spider-web string of bodily fluid attached to the man’s penis, connecting him still with Katherine’s cunt. They are both sitting up, retreating fearfully back up against the headboard, looking horrified in a way that kind of scares me too for a second.  Soren is frightened and howling hysterically, but I block out his screams; my mind is still wonderfully silent. I see the man’s face now, and notice, dispassionately, that he is the neighbor. Of course he is.  He also has a wife and a child, I know. Of course he does.

I know they are waiting for their bullets, or at least he is waiting for his.  They are deer in headlights, and I prolong the awkward, terrifying silence; pointing the gun again at the man, calmly.  He is as quiet as a mouse, eyes wide and unblinking, and she is pleading with me; empty, desperate words of remorse and supplication.

I say sternly, and rather coolly, “any last words”.  Her begging reaches a higher, more precarious pitch, and he sinks backwards into his body and into his silence, waiting for the death he deserves.

I turn the gun around suddenly and shove it into my own mouth; I make deep, insane eye contact with Katherine, and pull the trigger.  I feel the hot explosion in my mouth and nose, but no pain.
Then nothing.

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The flowers and the card sat neatly in the paper bag by the door. She still deserves the appreciation.

I hope she knows I love her.

Depression, Recursive Self-Analysis and Creativity

To be depressed is to be thoroughly hollowed out, as if someone took an existential ice-cream-scoop and scraped out your insides; leaving a human-shaped cicada shell where a real person once was. Depression (actual depression, not just the periodic run-of-the-mill blues) cannot be understood by those who have not themselves experienced it.  It cannot be communicated to those unsoiled by its inky black discharge. But when it is adequately described, those who have come into intimate contact with it recognize it immediately. To say that David Foster Wallace “adequately describes” depression in the following quote from his novel Infinite Jest is to so flagrantly understate things as to almost be offensive. He describes a clinically depressed character by the name of Kate Gompert:

Some psychiatric patients — plus a certain percentage of people who’ve gotten so dependent on chemicals for feelings of well-being that when the chemicals have to be abandoned they undergo a loss-trauma that reaches way down deep into the soul’s core system — these persons know firsthand that there’s more than one kind of so-called ‘depression.’ One kind is low-grade and sometimes gets called anhedonia or simple melancholy. It’s a kind of spiritual torpor in which one loses the ability to feel pleasure or attachment to things formerly important. The avid bowler drops out of his league and stays home at night staring dully at kick-boxing cartridges. The gourmand is off his feed. The sensualist finds his beloved Unit all of a sudden to be so much feelingless gristle, just hanging there. The devoted wife and mother finds the thought of her family about as moving, all of a sudden, as a theorem of Euclid. It’s a kind of emotional novocaine, this form of depression, and while it’s not overtly painful its deadness is disconcerting and . . . well, depressing. Kate Gompert’s always thought of this anhedonic state as a kind of radical abstracting of everything, a hollowing out of stuff that used to have affective content. Terms the undepressed toss around and take for granted as full and fleshy — happiness, joie de vivre, preference, love — are stripped to their skeletons and reduced to abstract ideas. They have, as it were, denotation but not connotation. The anhedonic can still speak about happiness and meaning et al., but she has become incapable of feeling anything in them, of understanding anything about them, of hoping anything about them, or of believing them to exist as anything more than concepts. Everything becomes an outline of the thing. Objects become schemata. The world becomes a map of the world. An anhedonic can navigate, but has no location. I.e. the anhedonic becomes, in the lingo of Boston AA, Unable To Identify. . . .

It goes by many names — anguish, despair, torment, or q.v. Burton’s melancholia or Yevtuschenko’s more authoritative psychotic depression — but Kate Gompert, down in the trenches with the thing itself, knows it simply as ‘It’.

‘It’ is a level of psychic pain wholly incompatible with human life as we know it. It is a sense of radical and thoroughgoing evil not just as a feature but as the essence of conscious existence. It is a sense of poisoning that pervades the self at the self’s most elementary levels. It is a nausea of the cells and soul. It is an unnumb intuition in which the world is fully rich and animate and un-map-like and also thoroughly painful and malignant and antagonistic to the self, which depressed self It billows on and coagulates around and wraps in Its black folds and absorbs into Itself, so that an almost mystical unity is achieved with a world every constituent of which means painful harm to the self. Its emotional character, the feeling Gompert describes It as, is probably the most indescribable except as a sort of double bind in which any/all of the alternatives we associate with human agency — sitting or standing, doing or resting, speaking or keeping silent, living or dying — are not just unpleasant but literally horrible.

It is also lonely on a level that cannot be conveyed. There is no way Kate Gompert could ever even begin to make someone else understand what clinical depression feels like, not even another person who is herself clinically depressed, because a person in such a state is incapable of empathy with any other living thing. This anhedonic Inability To Identify is also an integral part of It. If a person in physical pain has a hard time attending to anything except that pain, a clinically depressed person cannot even perceive any other person or thing as independent of the universal pain that is digesting her cell by cell. Everything is part of the problem, and there is no solution. It is a hell for one.”

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Speaking as someone who has been hospitalized for clinical depression in a pscyh-ward and has felt, on many occasions, the intricate grooves on the underside of Melancholies’ heavy boot impress themselves onto my fleshy throat, reading this description of depression by David Foster Wallace is simultaneously hair-raising and exciting.  Hair-raising because its an example of someone explaining a feeling you have had in such a way that exceeds the limits of what you thought was linguistically possible.  Exciting because its an example of radical empathy; of having the unique relief of another human being nod in total recognition of one of the deepest feelings (or, more precisely, lack thereof) that you have ever felt. And when you are struggling with a mental dis-ease whose most insidious aspect, perhaps, is its soul-crushing loneliness, nothing feels better than hearing someone else say, in so many words, “me too”.

The thing about depression is that it exponentially gains momentum.  Like a storm, slowly blowing in over your house, it creeps up at the fringes of your periphery, almost undetectable.  But as depression develops, it creates it own feedback loops in the mind; it creates its own food source in a way.  And that is what I mean by “recursive self-analysis”; the victim does the worst thing one can do when depression starts tightening its grip: they turn in on themselves and begin to try to self-analyze their way out of the labyrinth (which, incidentally, is also the automatic cognitive strategy usually employed when dealing with anxiety: depression’s fraternal twin).  This inward spiral no doubt lends itself to that overwhelming sense of loneliness described above.  This tactic is so automatic that I don’t think its even possible to not employ it; perhaps its in a strict causal relationship with depression, and for that reason, simply unavoidable. It’s a manifestation of the depression itself.

Recently I struggled with a strain of depression that was totally unique to me: existential depression.  I had suffered from depression many times in my life, but this time it was different in form and substance; it was also welded to an abysmal anxiety. It wasn’t the normal anxiety of increased heart rate, sweating, racing thoughts, etc.  It was the slow mechanical grinding sort of anxiety that churns away at the base of your limbic system, rotting just under the surface of consciousness.  The sort of anxiety that makes your mind try and run from itself; desperately attempting to avoid certain sets of thoughts, and by trying to avoid them, aggressively inviting them. This existential depression/anxiety revolved solely around compulsive thoughts of death.  In the autumn of 2014, death thoughts began creeping in at an almost imperceptible pace. I have always been more sensitive to death than everyone else around me, but this was different. The thoughts began to consume me, and by early 2015, I fell headfirst into Nietzsche’s abyss. From the moment I woke up to the moment I managed to fall asleep I obsessively compulsively reflected on not only my own demise, but the demise of everyone and everything around me. It was cognitively corrosive, and I felt my hitherto well-established grip on reality begin to loosen.  I was going insane, and the more I tried to avoid this conclusion, the more it made itself at home in my psyche. I tried to use my only weapon, my intellect, to find a way out, but the more I strained my analyticity the more I exacerbated the problem. Throwing gas on a fire in an attempt to put it out.

“It is a gift to be able to use your brain to create and not to turn it in on yourself.”

– Amy Wallace (David Foster Wallace’s sister) talking about her brother.

David Foster Wallace, the same genius who wrote the quote at the beginning of this essay, hanged himself in 2008 at the age of 46, succumbing to a life long battle with the very depression about which he so elegantly wrote. There is an unmistakable and highly significant correlation between various forms of mental illness and great works of art, science and philosophy.  Thinkers and artists like Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Kurt Cobain, Charles Darwin, Ernest Hemingway, Wolfgang Mozart, and Walt Whitman (I could go on indefinitely) all suffered from depression, and much of their work benefited from their experiences with mental illness. Although I cannot explicate exactly how and why depression is linked with creativity, it seems pretty obvious that it is. Furthermore, it seems self evident that this connection is complex and nuanced.

In my own case, I used artistic expression to pull myself out of my existential depression. As the above quote from Amy Wallace indicates, I eventually healed just enough to take back control of my brain and re-direct my inner turmoil outwardly into creative endeavors.  Now, to be sure, I had to get well enough that it became possible for me to create.  When you are in the thick of depression, you lose all motivation, and you become a passive play-thing of life instead of an active participant in it.  And therefore the fog of melancholy has to naturally thin itself out before one is in any position to do anything other than curl into the fetal position and inwardly whimper like a wounded animal. So when my depression did begin to retreat, and mental health was on the horizon again, I immediately began composing music, reading books, learning the guitar, writing and meditating. Every single one of these activities were used as outlets of catharsis; a way for me to process my emotions and turn them into something unique and expressive.  In a way, it was an attempt at emotional alchemy; transforming the base metals of my existential despair into into gilded bars of creativity. When the mind, especially the intelligent and sensitive mind, turns concave, it tends to devour itself.  The goal then becomes to re-commandeer the mind and aim it back out into the world; to harness its intelligence and sensitivity in the service of artistic innovation and expression.

Depression seems to give us the raw material to work with, and perhaps that is one reason why depression and creativity go hand in hand; they are the respective results of the mind turned radically inward and the mind turned radically outward.