Perfect Blue
Kona Macphee
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Commentary: Depression

I've experienced intermittent bouts of depression for most of my life; fortunately, they seem to be growing ever more widely-spaced. I think my depression has always been "reactive" - i.e. a response to life circumstances rather than a random biochemical imbalance. (I'm told this distinction is out of fashion nowadays, but never mind; I find it helps to make sense of my own experience.)

My depressive phases are induced, I've come to believe, by my unconscious mind's realisation that that there is something I need to relinquish, whether some tangible aspect of my life or some internal conception. Depression seems to be the mechanism by which this unconscious awareness can percolate up into my conscious mind and gradually be accepted. My subjective experience is that I spend a period of time mired in the emotional paralysis and confusion of depression, but that when this eventually lifts, it's replaced by fresh clarity: I now know exactly what I should do or change, and I generally act on this knowledge wholeheartedly, without hesitation.

Over the years, I've come to trust my particular form of depression as a process, and to let it run its course, trying to keep faith that in the end I will feel clear and enlivened again. In other words, I see this depression as a bitter but powerful remedy that brings me one step closer to psychological integration - to what Jung would call "individuation", or Winnicott the "true self".

Despite this sanguine perspective, a bout of deep depression can still be hard to bear - especially since I have no way of knowing how long it's going to be with me. The worst depressions I've ever endured occurred during my last few years at school - well before I had any understanding of what the process meant, or, to be fair, any real power to change the more unbearable aspects of my life. During those times, I absolutely wanted to be dead, and yet I didn't want to kill myself; I was still rational enough to see how devastating that action would be for other people. Instead, I went to bed each night fantasizing that some magic hand might reach out through the dark and simply erase my existence from history: my present, my past, my future all vanishing without trace.

The longed-for hand never came, and the desolation I felt every morning - when I woke again to find myself "still there" - is one of the worst things I've ever experienced. This short and simple poem captures for me a tiny part of that yearning for nonexistence.

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