And the only way he had ever found, the only code, the only language by which he could speak and be heard by other men, could communicate himself, was with a bugle. If you had a bugle here, he told himself, you could speak to her and be understood, you could play Fatigue Call for her, with its tiredness, its heavy belly going out to sweep somebody else’s streets when it would rather stay home and sleep, she would understand it then.
But you haven’t got a bugle, himself said, not here nor any other place. Your tongue has been ripped out. All you got is two bottles, one nearly full, one nearly empty.
― James Jones, From Here to Eternity
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps by Lance Cpl. Alejandro Sierras/ Released
Why are we worn out? Why do we, who start out so passionate, brave, noble, believing, become totally bankrupt by the age of thirty or thirty-five? Why is it that one is extinguished by consumption, another puts a bullet in his head, a third seeks oblivion in vodka, cards, a fourth, in order to stifle fear and anguish, cynically tramples underfoot the portrait of his pure, beautiful youth? Why is it that, once fallen, we do not try to rise, and, having lost one thing, we do not seek another? Why?
I think you can be depressed and flourish, I think you can have cancer and flourish, I think you can be divorced and flourish. When we believed that happiness was only smiling and good mood, that wasn’t very good for people like me, people in the lower half of positive affectivity.
I knew I should be grateful to Mrs Guinea, only I couldn’t feel a thing. If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat – on the deck of a ship or a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.
―Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
But I am, although I’m undergoing a cure, because my problem is that I lack a particular chemical. However, while I hope that the chemical gets rid of my chronic depression, I want to continue being mad, living life the way I dream it, and not the way other people want it to be.
The depression belongs to all of us. I think of the family down the road whose mother was having a baby and they went around the neighborhood saying, “We’re pregnant.” I want to go around the neighborhood saying, “We’re depressed.” If my mum can’t get out of bed in the morning, all of us feel the same. Her silence has become ours, and it’s eating us alive.
The Abbey in the Oakwood, Caspar David Friedrich, 1808-1810
Are the days of winter sunshine just as sad for you, too? When it is misty, in the evenings, and I am out walking by myself, it seems to me that the rain is falling through my heart and causing it to crumble into ruins.
I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others—the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad.
I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.