desire for the clinically depressed
Once upon a time there was an insufferable theorist who wrote that depression is the opposite of desire. For, according to this man (the theorist, of course, was indeed a man), desire is all about reaching beyond oneself and the wingspan of a depressive is unfortunately reduced to nothing. All the depressive can see is themselves and this makes the depressive deeply narcissistic.
I read this claim years ago, when I was newly dating a man who loves the theorist that made it, and it made me feel uneasy. There is no care in it and quite a bit of judgement. But I’ve come back to it recently, with the new development that I am depressed, and yes, it is still not gentle, but I do see myself in it.
Once upon a time, every day, for ever and until eternity, there was a plant-sitter. “Water these little pots of dirt,” were her only instructions, “and when the flowers bloom, you will be free!” And because this plant-sitter is a good girl, virtuous, obedient, and kind, she does what she is told although she cannot even imagine what kind of plants will eventually sprout. Time passes and she begins to doubt if the seeds blanketed by the dirt are viable. Perhaps, like beans kept for too long in the cupboard, they are too dry for the plant inside to escape the hard casing. More time passes and she begins to doubt whether the seeds even exist. More time passes and she forgets why she is pouring water on the little cups of dirt in the first place. There is only the action.
Eventually, although the plants did not sprout, the door opens and the plant-sitter exits the tower and finds she is enrolled in art school. She is asked to create things and so she does. People fawn over her creations, which are made with patience and great care. And then one day, the plant-sitter is asked “how do you make what you make and why.” She listens for the answer to come from the voice who provides these reasonings for her but an answer does not come. So she tells the truth, that she is making things because there is a voice shouting orders at her, telling her what to do. And as she reflects on this voice for the first time, she realizes that the voice is her own, but from another time and that the orders the voice is shouting are also her own. But by now, she remembers only vaguely the feeling of motivation and need, repeats this reasoning like a mantra as it slowly disintegrates into gibberish like a record played too many times, its grooves too deep. At night before she goes to sleep, she makes schedules for the next day only to find that they are identical to the schedule she set for the day that has just come to an end. The plant-sitter reads her artist statements back to herself until she feels like she can convincingly speak them, like the words did in fact belong to her.
There is another little voice in her head now too, one that points out the irony of this work. Making art this way is the antithesis of desire, the subject she once devoted herself to. Basterdized fully, desire mutates into the Sisyphean compulsion to push a heavy thing hillward. Her mind, once virile, seems less promiscuous, less able to devote itself to the act of reading, less willing to follow tangents, less interested in making connections. There is no more how. If desire is a sharpening of the senses, a bodily atonement, a tensing, then depression is the opposite. It is being separated from the world by a veil, like feeling a body through a layer of rubber, like trying to speak around a mouth full of cotton.