Tears

Is being depressed the same as being very sad?  While depression is characterised as a persistent low mood, I think that sadness has distinctive qualities that are not typical of depression.

Crying, for a start.

Looking back on the time that I have suffered from depression, I am struck by how emotionally dry the years have been.  Far from being in floods of tears, or even weepy,  emotionally I have been as shrivelled as a prune.

The only time that my eyes have regularly filled with tears in recent years,  has been when I’ve been on my bike, cycling downhill in chilly weather.  To me, these tears are physical tears, no more than a reflex – like when I am chopping onions.

A few weeks ago, however, as I came to the foot of the hill up which I live, I found real tears running down my cheeks, rather than the physical tears I described above.

Finally, I thought to myself, I had started to weep.  And although practical considerations like being able to see where I was going, elbowed their way into the emotional experience of crying, this did not stop the pure emotional charge that my unexpected tears announced.

In his book ‘Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears’ Tom Lutz claims that ‘there are no pure tears’.  By this I take it he means that the person who is crying always has an agenda, be it a hungry baby, a frustrated toddler, or an adult who needs comfort, tears have a job to do.

While this may be true, depression pushes tears away, as it does all feelings.  I can clearly recall faking joy by raising my arms and cheering when my seven year old son came home with the news that my favourite football team had beaten our rivals to earn a place in the F.A. Cup Final in 2001.  This news, usually a reason for a buoyant mood, to my depressed self, was news that was as vibrant as wood.

For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you’ll be aware of my recent diagnosis of Bi-Polar 2, with mixed symptoms.  It’s these ‘mixed symptoms’, that are most apparent to me when I am crying on my bicycle.  There’s an emotional charge, for sure, but there is relief, and a letting go of feelings, too.  It’s the feeling of letting go that is liberating, which makes me feel good, quite high, in fact.

For me, the pain of depression is the suppression of feelings, all feelings.  Without feelings experiences are drained of meaning, with the disappearance of meaning, so the will to live seeps away.  Tears, then, become the vehicle by which we discharge our feelings, stand apart from them, instead of sagging under their dull weight.

Counting the Mad

This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
This one things that were,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.

Donald Justice (1925-2004)

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5 Responses to Tears

  1. Tony Hewson says:

    Thoughtful, incisive, beautifully constructed with no redundant language and every word doing its job. An absolutely unique blog which deserves a worldwide audience.

    As a fellow writer for whom every sentence is, in T. S. Eliot’s famous phrase, “a raid on the inarticulate”, may I ask Nick how easily such accomplished writing comes to him? In a gush —- or only after several painstaking drafts?

    Asked a similar question, Hemingway replied along the lines of “It’s purely application —- application of the seat of my pants to a chair.” And, about his reputed genius, “It’s 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration!”

    Like

  2. Thank you for your generous comments.

    To answer your question: each blog takes about an hour or two to write. In fact, I realise that I write pretty quickly, since I’m obsessed with avoiding grammatical and spelling mistakes, so editing these details takes up a lot of the time. So, it’s fair to say that a lot of perspiration is involved – approximately the same amount that is shed on a hot day in the saddle.

    I haven’t given any thought to promoting the blog – aside from weekly announcements on Facebook; this is something I’m going to devote more time to in the coming year.

    Like

  3. MagsMcLean says:

    I hope you still get notified of replies to even such an old posting. I came across your blog from your link in Sheila’s blog, about a year ago. I have been diagnosed variously over the past 25 years with depression and anxiety – with the according meds – but it has been suggested to me recently that I may be bi-polar. I have resisted this because ‘I don’t do manic’ and I don’t really; the more I read about hypomania, the more familiar it sounds, but it still doesn’t fit quite right.
    This feels like the final piece in the puzzle: a key symptom of depression, anxiety, stress and burnout is weepiness and I don’t cry. I’ve been off work for 2 months following a nervous breakdown brought on by a combination of personal and work stress….I haven’t cried once. Andy Murray winning Wimbledon was the last time I cried. No other depressive has ever described the dryness and I haven’t come across any other description of ‘mixed state’ bi-polar, which is starting to sound very familiar indeed so I am seriously looking forward to catching up on the next 4 years of your blog. I don’t want to scare you, but you’ll be hearing from me again! Not that I have the slightest interest in cycling….

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    • Thank you for responding to my blog. I am very moved by what you have written. I don’t receive many comments. I will reply at length in a couple of days. Could Iemail you? Your address is attached to the comments you have sent – it is not visible to readers. Thank you again.

      Like

      • MagsMcLean says:

        Of course you may email me. I look forward to hearing from you, and to following your blog

        Like

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