“The gray drizzle induced by depression,” William Styron wrote in his classic memoir of what depression is really like, “takes on the quality of physical pain.” In my own experience, the most withering aspect of depression is the way it erases, like physical illness does, the memory of wellness. The totality of the erasure sweeps away the elemental belief that another state of being is at all possible — the sensorial memory of what it was like to feel any other way vanishes, until your entire being contracts into the state of what is, unfathoming of what has been, can be, and will be. If Emily Dickinson was correct, and correct she was, that “confidence in daybreak modifies dusk,” the thick nightfall of depression smothers all confidence in dawn.
And yet daybreak does come, with a shock and a rapture, to find us asking ourselves in half-belief: “What hurt me so terribly all my life until this moment?”
This rapturous rehabilitation of hope is what German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900), poet laureate of the troubled psyche, describes in the preface to the second edition of his most personal book, The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of…
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