Dazzling weather, wild flowers and wild birds, everything fresh and renewed with the spring. But a friend is suffering a dangerous depression and I spent time with her, listening to that inner darkness and apartness that is so unreachable.
Depression is a disease of loneliness, and the privacy of a depressed person is not a dignity; it is a prison. Therapists can be perilously naïve about this. Marcello and all of us who loved Terry were locked out by the same privacy that kept him locked in. Privacy is a fashionable value in the twenty-first century, an overrated and often destructive one; it was Terry’s gravest misfortune. The unknowable in him, which I thought was just a kind of static, was actually his heart.
I do wonder about the connection between severe depression and alcoholism and no doubt I shall go on wondering because there no hard and fast answers. My friend has spent years in therapy, years in recovery, is a deeply religious person and yet she feels almost powerless against the depressions that darken as she ages. As Andrew Solomon points out in the same tribute:
Terry had an illness that was distinct from but contiguous with his personality. He had been brave enough to start treatment, to seek insight, but insight had not redeemed him, as insight often doesn’t. It is heartbreaking to give words to your pain only to find that pain unaffected by articulation. It is a betrayal—the betrayal inherent in art’s and philosophy’s clear descriptions of what they cannot improve. For Terry, art historian and philosopher, that familiar betrayal became a disease state. Psychoanalysis can look to early experience and trauma; social theory can pin things on an emotional style, or on homophobia. Behaviorists can blame the way he processed his experiences, or the stories he told to himself. Neurobiologists could comment on the rate at which serotonin was taken up in his brain. All we can say for sure is that the clues Terry gave of being depressed looked smaller to all of us around him than the depression they marked turned out to be.
In other news, the computer problems persist. Everyone in the village went to a local tractor show because tractors are for farmers what Michelangelo is for artists. Affluent but somewhat clueless foreigners on holiday visit the isolated village in spring and buy pretty thatched homesteads with cottage gardens in a fit of spring madness, then discover they have bought a village rather than a house, and a stubborn less-than-welcoming village at that. My neighbours bring around baskets of newly grown Jerusalem artichokes, delicious, but inclined to make one fart. The lavender bushes with their new purple spires are as high as my waist.
Each morning I have a head full of dreams: like Orpheus I glance back and try to recapture some of them in a handy notebook before they slide away into darkness in the cave of dreams. Metaphors of the sea, of swimming or drowning, coming ashore on deserted islands, fording rivers, climbing into tall trees for a better view of the wild landscape and grey-blue ocean. The mantra for life, in a way, might be ‘It’s all metaphor, it’s all real’. How we begin to tell the dancer from the dance.